Police operation to tackle gun crime sees fall in the number of shootings in Wigan

The number of shootings in Wigan plummeted last year as police tackled the use of lethal weapons by organised crime groups.

Friday, 4th June 2021, 2:44 pm
Updated Friday, 4th June 2021, 2:48 pm

Proactive operations and planned raids were carried out across the region by officers at Greater Manchester Police, supported by its serious and organised crime firearms investigation team (SOC FIT).

It led to firearms discharges in the county reducing from 85 to 71 (16 per cent) between April 2020 and the March 2021.

In Wigan, reports fell from nine to just two.

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A converted top-venting imitation firearm
A converted top-venting imitation firearm

During the year, 120 firearms were taken off the streets of Greater Manchester, including self-loaded pistols, shotguns and imitation firearms held by criminals to be converted into viable weapons including 30 top-venting imitation guns.

Working alongside the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, police continue to tackle the conversion and supply of such legal blank-firing firearms into illegal, lethal ones.

Operation Lyra was formed in July 2020 to investigate the supply and possession of such weapons.

So far one man has been jailed for five years for possession of a converted imitation firearm, two people await trial accused of conspiracy to supply firearms and seven people have been arrested.

Det Insp Simon Akker with some of the weapons recovered

Action was taken in March when there was an increase in shootings in Manchester, with 10 in the first three months of 2021 in the north of the city alone.

There was a three-week blitz on organised crime, where several warrants were executed and 11 arrests made, yielding three firearms, ammunition, more than £150,000 in cash and 10kg of class A and B drugs.

Det Insp Simon Akker, head of SOC FIT, said: "We've been working relentlessly in SOC FIT to really drive a wedge between organised crime groups and the possession, supply and use of weapons in Greater Manchester, which is one of GMP's top priorities.

"By seizing more firearms than there have been discharges in the last year or so, it shows that we are proactively taking the fight back to organised criminals to stamp out the use of guns on our streets.

"While we can quantify the amount of weapons we've recovered and the decrease in discharges, what we can't count is the amount of incidents that we have prevented as a result of the action we have taken - but I can confidently say we have stopped people getting shot.

"That said, three men lost their lives on the streets of Greater Manchester due to gun crime last year which is three too many and we know that our work must continue to intensify to reduce these incidents further.

"The vast majority of incidents are targeted and are not a threat to the wider public, but that does not reduce the level of fear and anxiety they feel when acts of gun violence occur in their community and we have a duty to ensure that the public remain safe - each of these guns recovered is another potentially lethal incident stopped.

"Our focus remains on taking strong action against those in society who brazenly involve themselves in the use, trade and criminal conversion of firearms in Greater Manchester and we will ensure that those we suspect of having such involvement will face prosecution and be taken from our streets."

Anyone with concerns or information about suspicious activity is asked to report it to police at www.gmp.police.uk or by calling 101. Always call 999 in an emergency.

Details can be passed anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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