ELEVEN PEOPLE were jailed for a total of 86 years for firearms offences during the past two years as police continued efforts to disrupt organised crime in Leeds.
Gun crime in the city typically involves criminals targeting other criminals, so a major focus for West Yorkshire’s serious organised crime unit is the monitoring of known individuals and groups.
In the second part of our special report, we look at what police are doing to tackle the issue of gun crime.
The number of firearms incidents in Leeds has been decreasing steadily since 2011, with a slight increase over the past year put down to improved recording of crimes as a result of a national push to improve the reliability of data. Detective Superintendent Pat Twiggs, head of crime for Leeds district, said: “There’s no suggestion that we’re seeing massive increases in the number of injuries by firearms in the city.
“We see it’s still a relatively hard commodity to get hold of and it’s even harder to get hold of the ammunition.
To buy a single bullet in Leeds would probably cost £10.Det Supt Pat Twiggs
“To buy a single bullet in Leeds would probably cost you £10.”
While that might not sound much, registered gun owners can legally buy 25 shotgun cartridges online for less.
Organisations like the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) help police to chart the movement of illegal firearms around the country.
Det Supt Twiggs said: “Criminals will always seek to exploit new ways, such as looking to convert things like starter pistols. You can get a BB gun, put a stronger barrel in it and then use homemade ammunition. That to me indicates that gun control in the UK is actually very good.”
Figures supplied to the Home Office every quarter also allow forces to compare crime levels in their area to those of constabularies with a similar size and demographic. West Yorkshire is grouped in with six other forces like Nottingham, South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.
Between April 2014 and May 2015, West Yorkshire had 0.09 firearms incidents reported per 1,000.
This was compared to 0.0138 in South Yorkshire, 0.173 in Greater Manchester, and 0.20 in the West Midlands.
Det Supt Twiggs said: “It’s actually a really low rate of gun crime [in West Yorkshire]. It reinforces to me and hopefully the public that Leeds is a relatively safe place in terms of gun crime.”
Historically West Yorkshire focused on drugs and gun crime through Operation Quartz, but this was replaced with a serious organised crime unit following the work undertaken during the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.
The existing Operation Quartz team was added to with officers who had surveillance training, cyber crime experts, financial investigators and forensic experts.
Det Supt Twiggs said: “That unit can works simultaneously with other teams at force level, including our covert armed unit, and we’ve now forged links with the National Crime Agency.”
Part of its work involves mapping and scoring exercises to monitor known criminals.
“It allows us to chart activity by these groups and how much disruption we’ve caused,” Det Supt Twiggs.
“We’ve put quite a lot of effort into that in terms of analytics work but we’re starting to see the fruits of that. We’ve also increased the number of specialist firearms officers in the force. It’s a by-effect of the terrorism response. The positive outcome from that for us is those police will be deployed in high visibility roles. It will also help to deter criminals.”