Police carry out national gun crime crackdown

LONDON (Reuters) - Hundreds of real and imitation firearms were seized during a nationwide “Day of Action” aimed at tackling violent crime among young people, the Home Office said on Thursday.

About 1,000 police officers carried out raids and checks in Manchester, London, Liverpool and Birmingham as part of a continuing operation called the Tackling Gangs Action Programme.

More than 1,300 real and imitation firearms were recovered and 118 people arrested during Wednesday’s operation.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: “Getting guns off our streets is a top priority for the government and the Day of Action sends a strong message to criminals and the community that weapons won’t be tolerated.

The operation, which was coordinated with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Serious Organised Crime Agency, targeted the supply of guns.

Search warrants were carried out and armed mobile checkpoints deployed, using automatic number plate recognition technology.

Among the items retrieved were 10 handguns, 1,290 realistic imitation firearms, three gas canisters, a stun gun, four air weapons and a large quantity of knives and batons.

The four cities targeted account for more than half of all firearms offences in England and Wales, the Home Office said.

More than 20 teenagers have been murdered in London alone, this year.

High profile killings have included the shooting of 11-year-old Rhys Jones as he walked home from football practice in Liverpool in August.

Jon Murphy, head of the Tackling Gangs Action Programme for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: “Tragedies involving young people have a profound effect on all neighbourhoods.”

Roy Clarke HMRC Director of Criminal Investigations, said: “HMRC undertake anti-gun smuggling operations to ensure lethal weapons and replica firearms do not find their way on to the streets of our towns and cities.

“Our work at UK frontiers is supported by good intelligence and close co-operation with other law enforcement agencies both in the UK and overseas.”

Reporting by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Steve Addison