Six armed police call outs a week in North East
Armed police officers in the North East responded to an average of six incidents a week last year, new figures reveal.
Home Office data shows Northumbria Police deployed armed police to 308 incidents in the year to March – down 18% on the 376 in 2019/20.
As of March 31, the force had 120 armed officers – five fewer than the year before, but up by 22 compared to 2016.
Nationally, the number of police firearms operations fell for the second consecutive year to 18,262 – down 6% from 19,393.
The latest period saw officers fire their weapons on four occasions, compared to five the year before.
The overall drop in operations came during a year when the UK terrorism threat level was raised from "substantial" to "severe" in November, following a series of attacks in France and Austria but, in February, the level returned to 'substantial', meaning an attack was a strong possibility.
The Home Office said the reduction in firearms operations last year may reflect the impact of lockdown restrictions in place during the pandemic.
It said armed officers are only deployed to incidents where someone else is armed or is considered so dangerous that use of a gun may be necessary.
Chief constable Simon Chesterman, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for armed policing, said: “The discharging of weapons is always a last resort and I’m proud to see that despite more than 18,000 firearms operations, there were only four occasions when our officers were required to do this."
Mr Chesterman also said forces are now better equipped when dealing with operations thanks to an increase in the number of armed response vehicles, with at least one present at 92% of call-outs last year.
"Forces are now able to respond to major incidents such as terrorist attacks faster and with greater numbers," he added.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "All forces in the UK have an armed police capability. It is for chief officers to determine the number of armed officers and taser trained officers in their areas based on a thorough assessment of threat and risk."