Call for stop and search to be ramped up to reduce gun crime

Police chiefs have been urged to step up stop and search in the face of the region’s nation-topping gun crime rates.

Police at the scene of a shooting in Hockley Circus, Birmingham
Police at the scene of a shooting in Hockley Circus, Birmingham

New figures from the Home Office show the West Midlands had 25 firearms offences per 100,000 people in the year to March, the highest rate in England and Wales.

According to the data West Midlands Police recorded 721 crimes involving guns over the period, and has dealt with 9,993 such crimes since police force level records began in 2007-08.

Nationally, forces in England and Wales tackled 5,700 firearms offences, with robberies and violent attacks making up more than half of all gun crimes.

It comes after West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Simon Foster was accused of unveiling plans to scale down stop and search – which the Government today said was a crucial tactic in taking weapons off our streets.

Mike Wood, Conservative MP for Dudley South, said the level of firearms offences in the region was “shocking” and urged Mr Foster to address the problem immediately.

“People have a right to feel safe on the streets of the West Midlands and the fact that firearms offences are so high demonstrates why stop and search needs to be stepped up, not scaled back,” he said.

In his crime plan, Mr Foster questioned the effectiveness of stop and search, warning it was damaging community relations due to the “ethnic disproportionality” in how it was used.

He has denied he wants to reduce use of the powers, and insisted his proposals were aimed at making its use “more efficient and effective, with the intention of removing more dangerous weapons from our streets”.

PCC Simon Foster with a firearms officer

Mr Foster said cuts to his force's budget had impacted on crime.

He said gun offences were a "serious concern" to him and accused successive governments of a "flagrant breach" of the duty to keep people safe by slashing funding.

He said he was putting an extra 450 community officers on the beat and added: "I am also investing in prevention, because the prevention of violent crime is always better than having to deal with the consequences of violent crime.”

Police forces across England and Wales logged thousands of firearms offences in the year to March, although numbers were down 14 per cent on the previous year due to lockdowns and other coronavirus restrictions.

According to the Home Office, the largest proportion of firearms offences in the West Midlands involved handguns, while weapons were fired in more than half of the incidents recorded. Victims were most likely to be in their 20s.

A Government spokesman said it was recruiting 20,000 extra police officers and had given forces greater powers to stop and search.

He said the country had some of the toughest gun controls in the world and that firearms offences made up a small proportion of recorded crime, adding: “We know that everyone in Britain deserves safe streets, homes and communities.”

A spokesman for the National Police Chiefs’ Council said any loss of life or injury from offensive weapons is “one too many”.

He added: “These figures reflect important on-going work by police and our partners to reduce the number of deaths, injuries and other serious incidents due to armed criminality.”

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