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A seven day “firearms surrender” was announced today by Scotland Yard as a woman jailed for five years for storing a gun for her boyfriend issued a video appeal to other young Londoners not to ruin their lives.
The new surrender will allow anyone possessing an illegal gun to hand it in without sanction until 11pm on Sunday.
The aim is to reduce the number of unlawful weapons on the streets and follows the seizure by police of more than 1,400 illegal guns in London over the past two years. There has also been a significant rise in firearms discharges over the past 12 months.
The move came as a London woman arrested and jailed for hiding her boyfriend’s gun sent a dramatic video appeal from prison, telling others to hand in their weapons and shun gun crime before ending up behind bars.
In the video, the woman, who police say is too scared of retribution to be named or appear in person, has her words spoken by an actress as she spells out how she was duped into hiding the gun and now regrets the damage her decision has caused.
“My boyfriend asked me to look after a gun for him,” the woman says. “He told me I wouldn’t be in any danger. He told me I wouldn’t get in any trouble.
“I put my family’s life at risk, everyone I live with, everyone I love. I’m in prison for five years now. Hand it in to police before your life gets ruined or someone you love gets hurt.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Jim Stokley, of the Met’s Trident and Area Crime Command, said: “Illegal firearms cause nothing but misery and devastation. We are urging anyone holding an illegal firearm to take this opportunity and hand it in to police this week.
“Our aim is to remove all illegal firearms from the streets of London and we work relentlessly to disrupt and arrest anyone suspected of being involved in gun crime.
“If you hold on to an illegal gun, you are putting yourself and your loved ones in danger and you are likely to be arrested and face at least five years in jail.”
Met figures show that the force recovered 714 illegal firearms in 2015 and 697 in 2016. The totals include guns seized by police during anti-firearms operations, as well as guns handed in to officers and weapons found by members of the public.
Previous firearms surrrenders have proved successful with 220 weapons handed in during a surrender in November 2014 and other ten guns taken to police stations during a further hand-in the following November.
The new surrender – which is using the hashtag #giveupyourgun – will allow Londoners with guns to take them to a local police station and handing them in without giving their details to officers.
Any antique or decommissioned weapons which has the potential to be reactivated, or any loose ammunition, can also be handed in to police.
The initiative follows a rise in what the Met describes as “lethal barrelled gun discharges” in the capital over the past year.
Lethal barrel gun discharge is recorded when evidence is identified of a firearm being used. For example, a bullet casing is found or a person is treated for a wound inflicted by a firearm.
There were 305 such incidents in the 12 months up to January 25th this year , compared to 226 in the previous year. The number of lethal discharges has fallen over the past three months, however.
In response to the threat, the Met’s Trident command has launched Operation Viper, under which of high gun discharges and known gun crime offenders are targeted. Weapons sweeps and operations using Automatic Number Plate Recognition data are also used to identify illegal weapons and offenders.
Trident officers have also worked with the Milestone Foundation, as part of the Met’s DIVERT programme, to steer young people away from gun crime and into employment or development.
Police emphasise that any weapons handed in during this week’s surrender will still be subject to forensic testing, however, and police action could follow if they are found to have been used in a crime.
Anyone has any information about someone who they believe is in possession of an illegal gun, is asked to ring police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111