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Armed police would be called to any incidents - sparking fears of tragic mistake
Police have warned that teenagers are putting themselves in danger if they brandish ‘fake’ firearms in the streets.
Officers have previously highlighted that the dangerous practice always gets worse in the summer, as youngsters have far more time on their hands.
In one terrifying incident West Midlands Police said a 16-year-old was just “two millimetres” from being shot in the chest after armed police responded to reports he was carrying a gun.
Police highlighted the case after a huge rise in the number of incidents involving ‘fake’ guns on the city’s streets.
Chief Superintendent Rachel Jones, force lead for gun crime, said : “We will not tolerate the recent surge in gun crime and will continue to bring perpetrators to justice.”
The spate of gun crime means that the force is on heightened alert - the Mail has covered many instances of armed officers involved in incidents in recent weeks.
In just three months last year - in the run up to summer, of people carrying replica, ball bearing (BB) or air guns in public.
An incident took place in Erdington High Street where a 16-year-old was just “two millimetres” from being shot in the chest after armed police responded to reports he was carrying a gun.
The teenager and his friend had been seen with a gun tucked into the waistband of his trousers and a member of the public made a 999 call.
The boy had a BB gun on him, and without appearing to consider the consequences, he withdrew it in front of the officers, causing both policemen to draw their own weapons.
An officer who attended the incident later said he was just millimetres from pulling the trigger and shooting the teenager.
At the time Constable Rob Pedley, from West Midlands Police firearms unit, said: “The officer drew his gun and he squeezed the trigger and saw the hammer coming back and knew if he squeezed another two to three millimetres he would be shooting this person in the chest. It could have been a lot more serious.”
Inspector Richard Webb, from the firearms unit, has blamed the increased availability of the weapons online and a ‘gaming culture’ for the spike in recent fake firearm incidents.
He said: “There is just no excuse for carrying these weapons in the street and my message is that people should just not do it in the first place.
“The availability of the guns is one of the issues and the other is a gaming culture where some younger people seem to be replicating what they have done in a virtual world without considering the very real consequences in the real world.
“They could come face-to-face with armed police officers because that is how we respond to reports of a gun.”
In three years to 2015 air pistols, ball bearing and pellet guns resulted in 524
crimes reported to police in the West Midlands over the past three years – equivalent to one every other day.
More than 160 cases involved minor injuries, but 19 also involved ‘serious’ injuries with piercing of the skin.
Last summer West Midlands Police launched a campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of carrying replica guns after the spate of scares sparked by fake firearms.
One incident even saw motorway police impose a rolling road block on the M42 while an Armed Response Vehicle (ARV) intercepted a BMW heading south near junction five.
A passenger had been seen at Keele Services pointing a firearm from a window, but officers discovered the men had been “messing around” with a BB gun bought during a lads’ trip to Blackpool.
Detective Inspector Jim Colclough said it was important to raise awareness ahead of a predicted summer increase in replica gun-related emergency calls.
He said: “Some of these air weapons are very realistic. We always want people to report their concerns to us, the last thing we want is a blasé attitude and someone assuming it’s probably a BB gun.
Our armed officers always have to treat callouts seriously, they can’t let their guard down and would treat the incident as a genuine threat until it becomes apparent they aren’t dealing with a live firearm.
“We’re reaching out to parents, teenagers and schools to hammer home the message that anyone carrying or using a BB gun in public could quickly find themselves at the centre of an armed response by firearms officers.”
It is an offence to carry an air weapon in public without a reasonable excuse, which might include carrying a weapon to and from a shooting club or taking a new weapon home from a dealer.
To report suspicions of firearm possession call West Midlands Police on the 101 number or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111. In an emergency dial 999.