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Hand in your illegal or unwanted guns to Crawley Police station residents urged

People in possession of unwanted guns or ammunition are being encouraged to hand them in as part of a campaign to make Sussex and Surrey safer.

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Many firearms are held in innocence and ignorance of their illegality, or are overlooked and forgotten in people’s homes. Others are acquired and distributed by criminal networks to harm, threaten and intimidate their local communities.

This appeal gives people the chance to dispose of firearms or ammunition by simply handing them in at their local police station – a list of opening times and locations can be found below.

During the surrender period, those surrendering firearms will not face prosecution for illegal possession of a firearm at the point of surrender of the firearm to lawful authority, and they can remain anonymous.

However, this surrender does not mean police will not investigate firearms offences, should any come to light, once the operation has concluded.

This is a firearms surrender; not a firearms amnesty, and police are committed to reduce the harm to our communities from firearms crime.

The surrender, which runs from Monday 20 July to Sunday 4 August, forms part of a national campaign by the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS).

The aim of the operation, supported by Surrey and Sussex Police, is to reduce the number of illegally held firearms in circulation which could fall into the hands of criminals.

This includes replica firearms, air weapons, BB guns, imitation firearms, antique guns, de-activated guns, component parts, stun guns, Taser, cs/pepper spray and other ballistic items.

We are also encouraging current and previous military personnel to hand in any items kept as war trophies.

Detective Chief Inspector Steve Rayland said: “If you have any guns or ammunition you no longer want, or if you don’t know what to do with them or how to safely dispose of them, we can help. By surrendering your weapons now, it will prevent them falling into the hands of criminals and endangering the public.

“We recognise that firearms or replica weapons in the wrong hands can assist in the commission of serious offences, can increase community fears, can result in a significant drain on police resources responding to incidents, and can present a potential risk to armed officers confronting an individual in possession of a weapon they believe to be real.

“While crimes involving firearms in both Sussex and Surrey are extremely rare, we understand that every weapon poses a potential threat if not licensed and stored safely. That’s why we’re offering people this opportunity to safely hand in their unwanted weapons which, if in the wrong hands, could be deadly.

“During the surrender we want people to hand in illegally-held guns and ammunition, imitation firearms and air guns used for criminal purposes, other unwanted guns and ammunition including air guns and imitations, and firearms you are being asked to hide for someone else. If you have a gun that falls into any of these categories, now is your chance to hand it in.”

During the two-week campaign, those surrendering firearms will not face prosecution for the illegal possession upon surrender, and can remain anonymous.

Furthermore, lawful gun licence-holders can be reassured that these measures merely enhance their rights and privileges to own firearms, by removing the dangerous ones from the wrong hands. They are also encouraged to use this campaign to consider the surrender of weapons they no longer have any use for.

DCI Rayland added: “I’d like to clarify that this is a firearms surrender and not a general firearms amnesty for the lifetime of the firearm; an amnesty will be granted for police possession of an item only at the point of handover (surrender).

“The fight against gun crime is stronger than ever, and we are working with partners and our local communities to safeguard, educate and intervene at the earliest opportunity. We take all reports of incidents involving firearms extremely seriously, and robust action will be taken against anyone who commits a firearms related offence.”

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said:

“The UK has some of the tightest firearms legislation in the world for good reason. Nobody wants to see firearms falling into the wrong hands- by accident or by design.

“Recent changes in legislation however, mean that there could well be many law abiding people who could find themselves illegally in possession of firearms from antiques, souvenirs and replicas without realising it.

“I would urge Sussex residents who may have any sort of firearm or ammunition at home to ask themselves whether it is safe and legal to keep hold of it and if they are in any doubt to hand it in.

“The fortnight-long firearms surrender starting on 20 July is aimed at reducing the number of firearms in circulation and reducing the potential risk of them being used in crimes or being discharged by accident.”

Any deactivated firearm deactivated prior to the new specifications of 5 March 2018 (UK implementation date 28 June 2018) is a ‘defectively-deactivated’ firearm and cannot be sold, purchased or gifted, but possession on the other hand is permitted.

Firearms that do meet the 2018 specification and offered for sale or gift must be accompanied by their deactivation certificate (issued by a proof house anywhere within the EU). You can find more information online here

Q&As to Sussex Police:

Why are you running a firearms surrender now?

Following a rise in recorded firearms offences across the UK in 2017, the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) has asked all police forces in England, Scotland and Wales to take part in a national firearms surrender in 2019.

Is it because of a raised counter terrorism threat?

The threat from counter terrorism is always a consideration and the fact that firearms in criminal hands could be passed to terrorists has increased concerns following terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere. However, the primary reason for the surrender is to remove the availability of firearms that could fall into the wrong hands. Firearms surrenders give the public the opportunity to safely dispose of unwanted firearms.

A number of UK police forces have organised successful firearms surrenders in recent years and this is another opportunity to remove the availability of firearms from our streets. By removing weapons in the supply chain we are reducing the risk of criminals being able to get their hands on them.

Changes in firearms legislation also means that lawful sections of our society may not be aware that the law has changed and that some firearms that used to be legal to possess are now illegal to possess. If you are in doubt please speak to your local police station for advice or check the government website at: https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/policing for any changes in the law.

What is the main purpose of the firearms surrender?

To reduce the volume of guns in circulation in the UK which could get into the hands of criminals.

Is this a national firearms surrender?

All forces have the opportunity to carry out weapons surrenders locally whenever they choose. It is a matter for individual forces to assess whether it is right to conduct a firearms surrender individually or collaboratively at a particular moment in time. NABIS encourage forces to participate in the national two week campaign so that we can get as many firearms off the streets as possible. We hope the public will support the initiative and get behind the campaign in 2019.

How long will the firearms surrender last?

Monday 20 July to Sunday 4 August.

How effective are these campaigns for targeting real criminals?

During the national firearms surrender in 2014 more than 6,000 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition were recovered by police forces across the UK. In 2017, the total figure for firearms and ammunition combined was around 9,500. Any reduction in the volume of illegally held firearms in the UK reduces the opportunity for these weapons to fall into the hands of criminals or terrorists and could save lives. It takes the weapons out of circulation and out of the hands of criminals.

How many firearms and ammunition were surrendered in Sussex in 2017?

Of the 552 ballistic items handed in to us during our two-week firearms surrender in 2017, 441 were guns. These included various shotguns, pistols, rifles and a number of antique items – weapons which could potentially be lethal if in the wrong hands.

What items do you think will be handed in?

In previous surrender campaigns there have been various weapons handed in including antique guns, air weapons, rifles, shotguns. We hope many weapons will be surrendered across the UK. If you want to safely dispose of a firearm or ammunition you can contact your local police force for advice by dialling 101.

What is the difference between a firearms surrender and a firearms amnesty?

A firearms surrender exists around a particular point in time when a firearm is handed in to a lawful authority.

Firearms surrenders allow law enforcement to examine the history and use of a firearm prior to its surrender. Any possession or use of the gun prior to its surrender may therefore legitimately be considered for investigation or prosecution.

A firearms amnesty may be considered by some to represent an immunity from prosecution for the lifetime of the firearm, this is not the case with a firearm surrender; with a surrender any criminal use of that firearm will be examined and acted upon. NABIS and police forces are keen to ensure that messaging from forces around the nature of a surrender makes this clear.

A firearms surrender is aimed at taking guns out of circulation and removing them from criminal use to minimise the harm to our communities.

This approach allows the public to be reassured that forces are not ‘going soft on gun crime’ and that it is the intention to consider prosecution linked to any firearm where police can prove a link to offences committed before the weapon was handed in. Any amnesty applies only at the point of surrender, not for any offences committed prior to the surrender.

The message we want to get out is that anyone with a gun they don’t want or do not legally hold should give it up during the firearms surrender and not wait for the police to turn up at their address.

What if I live in a police force area who are not taking part?

If you have a firearm you wish to hand in to police you can call your local force by dialling 101 and seek the necessary guidance. You may not need to travel to another force area which is having a firearms surrender.

What will happen to all the guns handed in?

A proportion of the firearms will be destroyed but some may be retained by NABIS or museums if they are of significant interest or unusual. Any guns which can be proved to be linked to a crime will be kept as evidence and retained for any future court case proceedings.

Will I get into trouble for surrendering my firearms?

During the two-week campaign, those surrendering firearms will not face prosecution for the illegal possession and they can remain anonymous. However, a prosecution may be sought if individuals are found in illegal possession of firearms after this period.

When and where can I hand in firearms?

Weapons should be handed to police station front counter staff which at Crawley Station is open Mon-Sat 9am-8pm.

If someone is unable to travel to a police station they should contact police via 101 and arrange for the firearm to be collected.

Can I hand them to an officer in the street?

No. Weapons should be handed in to a police station or contact should be made via 101 to arrange collection.

How can I surrender military weapons?

Members of the public who wish to surrender any military items (such as grenades, guns or other ballistic items), even if considered inert, are asked to call police on 101 in the first instance so officers can attend and asses the items in situ.

What if I have another weapon, such as a knife, that I wish to hand in?

This is not a general weapons surrender – we are asking the public to hand in guns and ammunition specifically.

What if I don’t have time to hand in my firearms during the campaign? Can I hand them in afterwards?

Firearms can be handed into police stations at any time for surrender and destruction.

What if my firearms are of monetary value? Will you pay me for them?

All firearms surrendered are done on a voluntary basis only. If you are a firearm or shotgun certificate holder who wishes to surrender legally held firearms then please take advice from your local Firearms licensing officer.

Will police sell any firearms if valuable?

All firearms will be assessed, any that hold historic value will be offered to national armouries or museums; the remaining firearms will be put forward for destruction.

News

‘Grin and bear it?’ The Sussex Police problem that is NOT part of the job

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First of all let me say this is not a problem just with Sussex Police officers. This is a nationwide issue.

On the 30th April 2020 a press release was issued by Sussex Police that described an increase in assaults on police officers and other emergency workers during the coronavirus pandemic as ‘sickening’.

The hard statement came from, the now Chief Constable, Jo Shiner.

She said:

It is absolutely sickening that police officers, staff and other emergency workers, putting themselves in harm’s way every day to help others, are being faced with violence and the threat of contamination.

Whilst assaults on police officers is nothing new, the virus had bred a new disgusting way in which certain individuals were unleashing a torrid wave of unparalleled viciousness through coughing and spitting whilst additionally claiming they had COVID-19.

If I get hurt during that I will judge the day on whether I helped someone or not, that’s it.

In-fact the situation had become so bad that in just over one month, assaults on Sussex officers had been recorded at 122 assaults.

This was an increase of 58% when compared to the same one month period in the previous year.

But let’s take a look here at what this actually reflects.

When the coronavirus was not even a thought in anyones mind, assaults on officers for the same period last year in Sussex were around 77. That’s more than two a day!

“the very people who are being attacked are sometimes not even reporting it”

Between 2018 and 2019 there were 1,033 assaults reported on Sussex police officers, a rise of almost 20%. More alarmingly the rise of these assaults which caused an injury on an officer rose almost 30%.

The figures put Sussex 8th highest out of all UK forces for assaults on officers. Of course each force has different numbers of officers but even with the MET put aside for a moment it still puts them in the top quarter of all UK forces.

This is one leader board no-one wants to be at the top of.

But there is a reality here that is even more concerning. These figures are unlikely to be true. The truth is they are most likely much higher because the very people who are being attacked are sometimes not even reporting it.

Why? Why are they not reporting what is happening to them? Why would an officer, who works so hard to protect other people, who tries their hardest to encourage others to report incidents not follow their own advice?

We spoke to two officers from two different areas across Sussex on the assurance that we would not reveal their identities.

The first, Officer A was very experienced with over a decade in the force. The officer almost laughed off the number of times they had been assaulted.

“If I reported every single time I have been assaulted I wouldn’t get any work done. Sometimes it’s necessary as part of the arrest to report it, but other times it would just cause more paperwork when there are more important issues at hand.”

More important issues than being assaulted?

Officer B has only been with the force for six months and in that time has already seen for themselves colleagues get hurt.

“I have been lucky so far and I mean that. I have seen others I am with get really hurt, pick themselves up and limp along to the next job. I don’t want that to happen but I know it will one day. Look, my job satisfaction comes from being there for someone. If I get hurt during that I will judge the day on whether I helped someone or not, that’s it.”

Did they report it and if it happened to you would you report it? I asked.

I got a shrug back.

But this is not something new I have come across. In-fact the force here and up and down the UK is fully aware of two main issues.

ONE, that assaults are getting more frequent and…

TWO, that some officers are not reporting it, treating it as ‘part of the job’ an unacceptable description as confirmed by Assistant Chief Constable Jayne Dando in response to our questions on the rising figures.

She said:

“Working for the police can be a dangerous and unpredictable job and every day our brave officers and staff work hard, often in difficult and challenging circumstances, to keep people safe.

“Being assaulted while they are doing that is completely unacceptable and must never be seen as part of the job.”

The issue of none reporting goes back years and it was only in 2017 when an effort to understand the real situation was made.

ACC Dando continues:

“Since 2017 we have worked with the Police Federation, the Superintendents’ Association and Unison to get a better picture of how many officers are being assaulted as many were just shrugging off minor and sometimes more serious incidents and not reporting them.

“Every day officers go out on the frontline to protect the public and this often means helping them at times when they are going through or find themselves in challenging or difficult situations. While distressing, this does not give anyone the right to physically or verbally assault our officers or staff. If anyone in force is assaulted while on duty the impact can be both physically and psychologically significant. Not only is that individual affected, but also their team and their family.

There are also two very different assaults we need to be aware of. There is the physical assault. The one where bruises and broken bones or faces dripping with spit or blood occur. And then there are the mental assaults.

“it is those who have been assaulted who bear the scars long after a punitive fine has been paid”

I have said in previous articles that police are no different to you and I. They have feelings as well, despite many maintaining such a professional persona you can easily miss any real pain going on inside. But it’s there.

The mental assaults can also be split into two further areas. The first is the mental assaults that are inflicted upon them from the aggressors. The ones that have no right to act in this way ever. The other? I will explain that at the end.

So how do you stop this? How do you reduce a problem that appears to be growing and growing rapidly?

Forces are revealing new innovative ways of dealing with crime, new specialist units are being created and extra resources are being pushed through to stay ahead of criminals.

But whilst this is all exciting and encouraging news, more needs to be done to protect, both mentally and physically, the silent ones. The ones who are being assaulted. Both those who report it and those who don’t.

ACC Dando:

“While assaults on officers and staff do occur, we are committed to doing everything we can to reduce these. However, when they do happen, we will do all that we can to support those affected.

“We believe a significant majority of the public would also support that message and hope that an assault on any emergency worker will be seen as the crime that it is and completely unacceptable.”

It’s all very well increasing fines and punishments, but at the end of the day, it is those who have been assaulted who bear the scars long after a punitive fine has been paid.

I said there was another mental assault earlier. The reason I have left it to the end is because it is a very different type of assault. It is not one that would ever get reported in the same way as any other assault of an officer.

“This is our responsibility now and we need to make a stand”

Why? Because it is an assault that alas is part of the job. No it is not a contradiction of the ACC’s earlier words.

It is an assault that unfortunately happens at incidents such as accidents, where the mind is assaulted with visuals that have no place in anyones memory. Be under no illusion, this is an assault as well, a mental one that no preparation can ready anyone for. Yes it is not in the same class as ones made by vicious nasty assailants, but the repercussions mentally could be just as bad if not far worst.

Sussex Police are able to offer a lot of welfare support to officers and staff, and are in-fact now currently trialing a ‘trauma tracker’ – a very upsetting reality of a job on the front line.

“under no circumstances should any officer ever have to grin and bear it”

But before you think I am writing about doom and gloom take a moment to look back at what the officers we spoke to said. Read the way they spoke about ‘more important issues’ and ‘If I get hurt during that I will judge the day on whether I helped someone or not, that’s it’.

There was no anger. There was no bitterness. There was only a desire to continue doing the job they want to do.

The change needs to come from us, the public. The reality is there is only so much a police force can do to protect its staff. Yes they can have all the training in the world, all the best equipment and the strongest stab vests. But unless society takes a stand and says STOP! then the reality is the figures may continue to increase.

This is our responsibility now and we need to make a stand, because under no circumstances should any officer ever have to ‘grin and bear it’.

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