Gun crime offences across Nottinghamshire are now at the same level as 2009 – but police say this is because more weapons are being recovered rather than fired.
Assistant chief constable of Nottinghamshire Police, Gerard Milano, said some criminals are disguising guns as chair legs or activating replica firearms.
He said it is common for guns to travel across the country, with a weapon being used in Norfolk or Suffolk before being recovered in Nottingham.
But he stresses that the city is far from the crisis that engulfed it in the early 2000s, when the city was labelled ‘Shottingham’ due to the number of deaths by gun fire.
He said the rise in figures is down to the amount of weapons that are being recovered not the amount of guns being discharged.
He told Nottinghamshire Live: “We gear our whole operation around guns. We recovered one last night and three the other week. That’s what we go hunting for.
“In 2009, it was drugs, now it is guns and the drugs come with it.
“I don’t want to go back to 2004/05 when they were quite frequent. We couldn’t deal with anything else because of the volumes of shootings we had.
“You had people who did not want to send their kids to uni here. It was a bad reputation for the city.
“We are in a really good place now.
“The recovery (of firearms) is prevention work that is paying off due to the reduction in discharges.”
Police say criminal enterprises use guns to exert power, control and credibility.
Intelligence also suggests that some guns have come Romanian and Lithuanian criminals living in the community who have a better connections to access firearms.
Police have recently recruited more Romanian officers to work with communities that might not have traditionally engaged with the force.
Some people found with firearms at their addresses have ‘hardly any criminal history’ or are women told to store it for someone higher up the criminal network, police said.
Talking about the different types of firearms seized, ACC Milano said: “It is a complete mixture. People can covert replicas into functional firearms.
“They may look like a chair leg but they can discharge a lethal shot. And you have got firearms like pistols and shotguns.
“Lots come from overseas and the military and other organised crime groups. They will be passed around – the trace of that bullet from Norfolk, Suffolk to the gun found here.
“It is easy to say it is all criminals in St Ann’s or Radford but we have found guns in Bestwood and north of the county. It is not confined to areas.”
Recent figures released by the Office for National Statistics show there was 136 firearm offences excluding air weapons between October 2019 to September 2020.
This is more than any other force in the East Midlands, with Leicestershire experiencing the next highest amount at 108 offences.
This is also the highest number of offences recorded since April 2009 to March 2010 when there was 137 offences recorded.
The lowest number of offences recorded in Nottinghamshire was April 2014 to March 2015 when there was just 66 incidents.
Talking about the recent figures, he said: “90 percent or more is proactive – the seizure of weapons rather than responding to discharges or homicides.
“When did we last have someone shot and killed in this city?”
ACC Milano said Operation Reacher – launched in April 2018 in Bestwood after a rise in firearm discharges – had tackled some of the problems facing the city.
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He said vehicle stops, stop and searches, and warrants at addresses continued to happen daily to drive firearms out of the city.
Operation Reacher has also been rolled out across every neighbourhood in the city and country.
Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping added: “We have been more proactive. We are searching people and taking more weapons off them.
“Almost every week there is a firearm being discovered and taken off someone. Ten years ago we were in a bad place but there is a lot happening here.
“Bestwood was a risky place to live and now people want to live there.”
The Chayah Project in St Ann’s has worked with victims and their families affected by knife and gun crime.
Project manager Hyacinth Francis-Watson said: “We know guns are still in the city and still being discharged but it not as big an issue as it was in the early 2000s.
“They are being used as a threatening mechanism rather than being used. That’s the way I have seen it. Knife crime seems to be the ‘in thing’ now.”
Outreach worker for the project Justin Weedon, who has served time for robbery and GBH after stabbing a man, said guns are only being used for “intimidation and fear.”
He said carrying knives is the main problem affecting the city, with the project building up a number of programmes to deter kids away from crime.
He said: “If you have got a gun you have got to hide it and it is an automatic sentence if you get caught. If you have a knife you can conceal it and it is easily accessible.”