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  1. National lead for organised crime warns there are not enough police officers to prevent more illegal guns reaching UK streets. File photo of a Border Force officer. Photo credit: PA Date - 28th December 2018 By - Hayden Smith Police and border officials are struggling to stem the rise in illegal guns being smuggled into the UK, a leading police chief has warned. Chief Constable Andy Cooke, the national police lead for serious and organised crime, said the rising supply of weapons - many coming in from eastern Europe - was expected to continue due to the scale of the problem. The situation has become so serious the National Crime Agency (NCA) has used its legal powers to direct every police force in England and Wales to step up its efforts in providing intelligence on the supply of guns, The Guardian reported. Mr Cooke told the newspaper: "We in law enforcement expect the rise in new firearms to continue. "We are doing all we can. We are not in a position to stop it anytime soon." Mr Cooke said efforts to tackle the issue had been "hampered" by a fall in the number of police officers and the resulting reduction in proactive work to "keep these criminals on the back foot". According to the NCA, many weapons are bought in eastern Europe where they are legal and unrestricted. They may then be transported to the Netherlands, where Dutch organised crime groups negotiate the sale to a British buyer. The illicit cargo is then smuggled into the UK via ferry ports, train stations and postal hubs, often concealed inside vehicles or parcels. Guns are also being bought on the dark web. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics for the year ending June 2018 showed a five per cent decrease in offences involving firearms, to 6,362. Figures released earlier in the year showed an 11 per cent increase to the end of December 2017. Mr Cooke said he believed serious and organised crime was one of the two greatest threats to national security, alongside terrorism. "Nationally, we need to ensure serious and organised crime gets the same funding as the terrorist threat," he added. Official figures released this week showed the number of knives seized by Border Force doubled in a year. Their officers took possession of 7,668 bladed items in the year to September - compared with 3,800 in the previous 12 months. Border Force also registered a jump in the number of other "offensive weapons" it seized, rising by 61 per cent from 4,056 to 6,534. The combined haul of 14,202 was almost double the 7,856 knives and weapons confiscated by the agency in the year before. The figures cover seizures made at all points of entry to the UK. Detailed breakdowns are not published, but the Home Office said the majority of knives and offensive weapons are seized in postal, fast parcel and freight modes. Border Force "transparency data" published in November also showed the number of "lethal" firearms seized more than halved year-on-year from 1,285 to 594. But the quantity of "non-lethal" firearms seized increased by a third to 2,418 in the year to September, meaning the combined total was broadly stable at just over 3,000. A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Tackling the illegal smuggling of offensive weapons is a priority for Border Force. "Last year (October 2017 - September 2018), officers prevented more than 14,000 knives and other offensive weapons and over 3,000 firearms reaching the streets of the UK. "We work closely with intelligence colleagues, as well as other law enforcement agencies, to ensure that frontline work is focused on the areas of highest risk and emerging trends are quickly identified. "Where possible offences are identified, we will not hesitate to pass on information to assist police forces or the National Crime Agency. "We also run regular intensification exercises at the border as well as awareness raising campaigns to inform holidaymakers returning from locations where knives and batons are sold without restriction that they cannot be imported into the UK." The findings come amid intense concern over serious violence, and knife crime in particular. London has been particularly badly hit by bloodshed, while national figures show forces in England and Wales have registered a jump in recorded homicides and offences involving a knife or sharp instrument. Ministers have announced a number of measures designed to combat the rise in violent crime. A key plank of the crackdown is the Offensive Weapons Bill, which includes a proposed ban on delivering potentially dangerous bladed items to a buyer's home following warnings that age-verification checks can be sidestepped online. View On Police Oracle
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