Over 800 potentially lethal weapons have been seized and 282 suspects arrested during a month-long operation aimed at preventing criminals and terrorists from gaining access to illegal firearms. As part of an intensive initiative led by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and National Counter-Terrorism Policing (NCTP), officers across the UK seized 833 firearms, nearly half of which are viable with hundreds still being assessed.
Working together, the teams also recovered 4,385 rounds of ammunition and over 100 additional potential weapons such as knives. Among other confiscations were 80 kgs of illegal drugs and more than £500,000 in cash.
Lead officers have paid tribute to the public response to the #GunsOffOurStreets campaign which ran alongside the operational activity and invited members of the public to report what they know. More than 160 reports were received via Crimestoppers. Combined with other sources, this resulted in an average of 55 intelligence reports being fed into the Operations Room every day.
The operation, which began in October last year, aimed to protect the public by disrupting the criminal supply of illegal firearms and ammunition into and around the UK. It also trialled a new approach to intelligence collection and sharing, which the NCA and NCTP will now continue via a central co-ordination hub
An initial analysis of results shows handguns and shotguns were the predominant firearms seized. However, the haul also included a fully-loaded AK74 assault rifle, a Skorpion sub-machine gun and a number of other types of assault rifle. Some of the firearms were seized from registered firearms dealers who had their licenses revoked and weapons confiscated, usually for inadequate certification.
Developing the best intelligence
The NCA’s deputy director Chris McKeogh, who led the operation, said: “The surge of activity across the whole of the UK has yielded significant results, from the seizure of illegally-held firearms and ammunition to the number of reports we received from members of the public via Crimestoppers. Collectively, we will build on what we achieved in this short period of time to ensure that we develop the best intelligence we can about the firearms cross-over between organised crime and terrorism.”
McKeogh went on to state: “Gaining the confidence of the public to come forward with information about illegal firearms is key to any campaign, and I would like to thank all those who had the courage to speak up. As a direct result of those calls or reports, we’re able to protect the public and reduce the risk posed by those with access to illegal firearms. This isn’t over, though. One gun in the wrong hands is too many.”
The joint operation has enhanced law enforcement’s shared understanding of the illegal firearms market and learning from it is now being developed into an enduring model with both a national and international focus.
Detective Superintendent Nick Wilcox of NCTP added: “Counter-terrorism officers continue to plan and prepare in light of world events such as the attacks in Paris, but we want to remain on the front foot and stop terrorists obtaining guns in the first place. Low firearms availability is a major advantage in the UK. In many other western countries, someone like Muhiddin Mire, the man who last year attacked innocent passers-by at Leytonstone London Underground Station with a knife, could probably have put his hands on a firearm. One serious injury could have become tens of deaths. Communities defeat terrorism. Our collective safety depends on everyone’s efforts.”