Police chiefs, trying to restore calm in Sheffield following a fatal shooting, said today: “The streets are not awash with guns.”
With the killer of 23-year-old Grant Bodell, of Windy House Lane, Manor, still at large after the dad-of-two was gunned down last month – and two guns seized in high-profile incidents in the city this week – the top detective tasked with overseeing armed crime in South Yorkshire spoke out to reassure residents of their safety.
Detective Chief Inspector Zaf Ali said: “The availability of guns is not as easy as people think. The streets are not awash with them. There isn’t one on every street corner.”
He stressed fatal shootings were ‘extremely rare’ and most guns were carried and used by ‘organised crime groups’ against each other – with limited risk to law abiding members of the public.
Mr Bodell was found with gunshot wounds on land off Queen Mary Road, Manor, on Saturday, June 21, while a gun was found in a police raid on a house in Danewood Avenue, Manor, on Monday.
Another was seized when a man was arrested on Abbeydale Road, Nether Edge, on Tuesday.
Mr Ali said most crime gangs were involved in drugs and guns were used for protection and bravado.
He warned many guns recovered by police officers are of poor quality and criminals using them are just as much at risk of getting hurt by the weapons as their intended targets.
Between April 2012 and March 2013 some 45 firearms and pieces of ammunition were seized from the streets of South Yorkshire.
Armed officers were deployed to 655 incidents last year, including 137 pre-planned police operations aimed at recovering weapons or arresting suspects – more than 50 per cent of deployments were false alarms.
Of the legitimate calls, over half involved air weapons.
Mr Ali said gun crime nationally was declining and apart from a ‘blip’ at the end of last year – linked to a gang of armed robbers who were jailed for 33 years in October for holding up bookmakers in Sheffield and Rotherham – incidents in South Yorkshire were reducing year on year.
He said: “For the size of Sheffield we still sit outside all the big metropolitan cities in terms of gun crime. The majority of the incidents we deal with tend to be armed robberies and fall outs between rival groups involved in drugs.
“The public going about their lawful business have nothing to fear in South Yorkshire. Shootings tend to be isolated incidents involving specific individuals with a grudge.
“We have a dedicated team which investigates all firearm discharges and we map and monitor organised crime groups and take action against them.
“We are on the front foot in terms of developing intelligence, taking action against organised crime groups and recovering weapons.”
Of those arrested for firearms offences in South Yorkshire recently, 28 per cent were aged between 20 and 24, with 23 per cent aged between 25 and 29.
Mr Ali said: “A lot of the carrying of guns is for scare tactics and bravado and when we interview people a lot of them never have any real intention of using them, but if they pull that trigger they have to accept the consequences – not just for their victim, but their victim’s family and their own friends and family.
“They need to realise just how many lives they are changing by firing that weapon.”