Police car

Specialist armed-officers deployed after a suspected firearms incident in Eccles.

On Saturday 15 August at around 4 pm, a member of the public called the police after concerns over a man with a gun on Nelson Street, Eccles. It was reported that there was a group of young individuals acting suspiciously in the area, who were also suspected of wielding a firearm.

Specialist armed officers were deployed to the area due to the severity of the report, where they conducted a search. Three teenage boys – all aged 15 – were arrested and two suspected firearms were retrieved, which were later confirmed to be BB guns.

Chief Inspector Chris Boyd, of GMP’s Specialist Operations team, said:

“This was a real and serious incident which required the deployment of armed officers and numerous other resources. In fast-moving situations, it can be difficult to distinguish between real firearms and toys and firearms officers have to make split-second decisions.”

The three teenagers were arrested under suspicion of a number of offences ranging from possession of a firearm, imitation with intent to cause fear of violence and possession of cannabis. After their arrest, all three were released with an investigation pending.

The Office for National Statistics that there were 9,787 offences in which firearms were involved in 2019, which is a four per cent increase on the year before and a 27 per cent increase in comparison to that of five years ago. It was also reported that in 47 per cent of these cases the firearms were used as a threat and that 6 in 10 of firearms incidents occurred in five police force jurisdictions, including Greater Manchester.

These statistics suggest an increasing issue in the UK, particularly in urban areas such as Salford, and as the Chief Inspector highlighted in his statement, this could not be coming at a worse time:

“This comes at a time when we’re facing unprecedented demand on our 999 lines and it’s hard to ignore this context. Due to the colossal demand on our call centres at the moment, there is a real concern that next time, someone in serious trouble may not be able to reach us. I would ask people to really consider this context when next picking up the phone. It’s absolutely imperative that people only call 999 when in an emergency.”

The Greater Manchester Police tweeted two days after the incident encouraging the public to #ReportOnline using the online forms that can be submitted on their website.

This service was designed to alleviate pressure on the 999-centre staff and to improve response times for more serious emergencies. 

It is not yet known why the 999 service is experiencing particularly high volumes of calls in Greater Manchester, however as has been widely reported many illegal gatherings and parties involving 16-18 year-olds were shut down over the weekend.

It is presumed that the tighter lockdown measures, combined with the release of A-Level and GCSE results have caused a higher level of gatherings and consequently an increase, in what would be considered to be, unnecessary 999 reports. 

Chief Inspector Chris Boyd highlighted the severity of the firearms situation on Saturday: “It is incidents like this one, which could have had much graver consequences, that we need to prioritise and need to be responding to quickly.” 

The GMP’s quick response prevented any harm being brought to the teenagers or the general public, despite the high levels of calls in this unprecedented time. The teenager’s futures, however, may not escape harm as they were released under investigation.

For advice on when to call 999 visit https://www.gmp.police.uk/ro/report/ocr/af/how-to-report-a-crime/

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