Legal firearms are target for criminal gangs- warns Essex Police chief inspector

PUBLISHED: 08:39 11 December 2018

Imitation firearms and real guns on display at Essex Police Headquarters at the media launch of the firearms surrender. Picture: ARCHANT

Imitation firearms and real guns on display at Essex Police Headquarters at the media launch of the firearms surrender. Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

Legally-owned guns are being targeted and stolen from rural homes across Essex, a police chief has said.

Force armourer Paul Woolven demonstrates how similar an old operational police pistol (left) and a BB gun (right) look. Picture: ARCHANTForce armourer Paul Woolven demonstrates how similar an old operational police pistol (left) and a BB gun (right) look. Picture: ARCHANT

Rob Kirby, chief inspector for intelligence in the serious crime detectorate, also said that criminals could be storing their stolen firearms in rural and remote locations to avoid detection.

Ch Insp Kirby was speaking as Essex Police launched their two-week firearm surrender across the county to get guns off the streets.

The surrender began last Monday and will last until this Friday (December 14), during which time firearms and ammunitions can be handed in to county police stations.

During the surrender held in 2017, 184 firearms were handed in as well as about 9,000 rounds of ammunition.

Ch Insp Kirby said that organised gangs target homes with legally owned firearms.

The chief inspector said: “There can be instances where people who fought in the Second World War or even in some of the Iraqi wars might have brought back some firearms with them and they will now be in lofts or sheds and families might be aware of them and what we are saying is get those guns into a police station and there will be no prosecution for the act of handing in a weapon.

“The question you might ask is, if a firearm is in a loft, brought back from the Second World War, then what’s the problem? But there have been instances where organised gangs will commit burglaries in order to steal firearms and that’s one of the routes that firearms will get into criminal hands.”

As to how criminals know which homes to target, there could be many reasons.

Ch Insp Kirby explained: “It could be chance. We don’t know the answer to that. It could be a number of things. It could be they have some contacts at the local gun clubs that might hold address details, for example. We are trying to develop intelligence into how a burglar would know somebody has got shotguns in their house.

“The rural areas are where we tend to get the burglaries where shotguns are stolen. That’s typical. That’s probably because more people in rural areas have shotguns, generally speaking.

“Sometimes... the firearms won’t be held by the criminals themselves so they might be stored at a remote location and that could be in rural location. Anyone with any information about where firearms might be stored would be really gratefully received.”

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