Guns from Europe ‘smuggled into Yorkshire in record numbers’

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe
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MORE GUNS than ever are being smuggled onto the streets of Leeds and other big cities, Britain’s most senior police officer has said.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe told a hearing at London’s City Hall that a rise in gun crime in the capital is being put down to an increase in the number of weapons coming into the country - ending up in major cities throughout the UK.

He singled out Leeds as one of the destinations for the illicit weapons.

The Metropolitan Police seized a record number of weapons in 2015, including semi-automatic guns, which he said was “worrying”.

He said: “We’ve seized more firearms than ever before. In the previous year we’ve seized 714 guns, that’s around two per day. In a city this size that’s a worrying number. This is an increase on previous years. Some of them are semi-automatic weapons too.

“If you look around the big cities of the country they are seeing a similar profile. Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool - they are seeing big rises as well.”

The main supply route into the UK is across the continent from East European countries such as Albania and Lithuania, and recent significant seizures have been made coming in from France.

Sir Bernard went on: “We are targeting with the National Crime Agency the supply routes. It’s either from abroad, it’s stealing legally owned weapons in this country, sometimes you’ve got to look at military supplies and also you’ve got to look at licensed dealers.”

Officers also monitor potential supplies from the United States, as well as the parcel post.

Figures show that there were 302 lethal barrelled weapon discharges in London in the year to the end of August 2016, 91 more than the previous year.

There was also a leap of a third in the month of August this year compared to June. There were 46 discharges in both July and August this year.

In May Sir Bernard warned that the rise in the number of available guns meant terrorists had a greater chance of getting their hands on lethal weapons.

He spoke out as Scotland Yard launched a crackdown on gun crime hotspots called Operation Viper, following a ‘’significant’’ increase in the number of shootings in the capital.

In August the force also introduced routine armed patrols in London in the wake of the terrorist atrocities on mainland Europe.