FIREARMS were used on the streets of Leeds in 181 incidents reported to police in one year - that’s more than three every week.
At first glance the figures submitted to the Home Office could give cause for real alarm, but police say that our city is actully a safe place when it comes to gun crime.
In recent months there has been a number of incidents involving reports of gunshots fired, including one near St James’ Hospital in the middle of the day.
And the fatal shooting and stabbing of Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox in neighbouring Kirklees in June sent shockwaves around the globe.
Detective Superintendent Pat Twiggs, head of crime for Leeds District, said: “Events like that are tragic but still thankfully very rare. “The vast majority of incidents we see in Leeds is criminal use against each other in a targeted way, rather than against the public. They are the groups that we are targeting.”
Two roads near the city centre were cordoned off in May when shots were fired at an Audi in Burmantofts Street and North Street in the early evening.
Det Supt Twiggs, right, said: “We had the report of a drive-by shooting in a couple of different locations where a handgun was discharged towards a car. We’ve not brought that to a conclusion.
“The complainant is not compliant with the investigation. We tend to see targeted use of firearms between criminals. That’s sort of indicative of that type of incident.”
Two men were arrested last month after reports of gunshots being fired in Pudsey, while two others were arrested over an unconnected shooting in Chapeltown.
Det Supt Twiggs said: “We do accept that we do get these incidents that will cause spikes in public concern, but on the whole Leeds is a very safe place in terms of gun crime.”
West Yorkshire Police must send a number of different figures to the Home Office every quarter, including figures for any incident involving a firearm.
“The gun crime statistics are very complex,” said Det Supt Twiggs.
“It can be a fatality, a serious injury or there’s a slight injury. Of course, that covers all sorts of things.”
BB guns are classed as an imitation firearm under the Firearms Act, while CS gas and pepper spray are classed as firearms alongside handguns and shotguns.
Of the 43 incidents where someone in Leeds was injured by a firearm between April 2015 and March 2016, 30 involved air weapons or BB guns. Ten incidents involved CS spray, two involved handguns and the last involved a shotgun.
“The number of firearms incidents has been decreasing steadily since 2011 and it’s had a very slight increase over this period last year,” said Det Supt Twiggs.
“When you compare the figures for this year versus last year, there’s a slight increase in the recorded number of discharges. We think that this is probably down to better recording procedures. Over the last year or so the police have been recording far more incidents as crimes based on what victims are telling us.”
There were two fatal shootings in Leeds in 2015/16, compared to one the year before.
But it was the use of firearms as a threat, rather than cases where injury or damage was caused, which accounted for the highest number of incidents in the past year.
One of the more recent was an attempted armed robbery at Chapel Allerton’s post office in May, which was foiled after the panic alarm was triggered.
There were 56 reports of firearms being used as threat in 2015/16, up from 33 the previous year.
Det Supt Twiggs said: “I think the vast majority are imitation or BB guns. We get very few discharges of weapons during robberies.
“It’s more about the initial threat. It’s more something that looks like a gun, and not a gun, but we never actually prove what it is. “For the public and our firearms officers, it’s still a firearm though as nobody knows what you’re staring down the barrel of.”