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Use of armed officers by Sussex Police rises despite national fall
The use of armed police officers in Sussex increased last year – at the same time as figures fell nationally.
Government statistics reveal that operations in which firearms were authorised jumped from 205 to 247 between 2010/11 and 2011/12 – an increase of 20%.
Nationally there was a fall of 7.5% with the country’s largest force, the Metropolitan Police, achieving an even bigger drop of 21%.
The jump has led to concerns about the safety of Sussex streets with questions also being asked about the force’s reliance on the use of firearms.
The national trend shows a variable change year-onyear, but with a long term decrease in use of firearms on operations.
However, Sussex has seen no overall drop over the past ten years, with call outs now higher than a decade ago.
The majority of forces have witnessed a sizable decline over more recent years with the Metropolitan Police achieving a steady reduction over the last five.
In 2007/08 the number of call outs stood at 4,948. This fell to 2,029 the next year followed by 1,971, 1,661 and 1,303.
Likewise, neighbouring Kent saw a steady fall from 280 to 275, 213 and 168 and Surrey a similar fall from 479 to 188, 162 and 141.
In Sussex however, there has been very little evidence of a decline.
Following two bumper years in 2007/08 and 2008/09, where there were 331 operations each year, call-outs fell to 227 and 205 before rising again to 247.
The most recent figure represents 43 more operations than a decade ago, when the number of operations stood at 204.
Campaign groups argue that the arming of officers could lead to higher levels of gun crime.
Gill Marshall-Andrews, chairwoman of the Gun Control Network campaign group, said that increasingly arming police “sends out all the wrong messages.”
She added that the “retrograde step” would likely “raise the stakes” and encourage more criminals to arm themselves.
However, a Sussex Police spokesman said that firearms teams were only used when they are “judged necessary”.
He added: “The statistics do not show a steady increase in the number of incidents in which these specially trained officers have been deployed.
“In fact, the largest number of incidents in the past ten years were recorded in 2003/04, 2007/08 and 2008/09.
“The annual crime statistics confirm that Sussex remains one of the safest places to live in the country.”
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