ARMED police are being deployed to fewer incidents in Thames Valley, figures reveal.

Home Office data shows Thames Valley Police conducted 399 armed operations in the year to March.

This was down two per cent from 2018-19, when there 407 firearms operations, but still an increase of ​25 per cent from a decade ago.

Meanwhile, the number of armed officers in the force fell from 244 to 234 over the period. That was higher than a decade earlier, when there were 193 armed officers in Thames Valley's ranks.

It was a similar picture across England and Wales, where the number of firearms officers fell two per cent to 6,518 by March 31, ending a three-year upward trend.

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The fall comes despite the Government's £143 million recruitment drive – announced in 2016 in the wake of terrorist attacks in France – to attract 1,500 extra firearms officers over a five-year period.

Nationally, the number of police firearms operations fell for the first time in four years to 19,372, down 4per cent from 2018-19. During that time, officers’ guns were fired in just five incidents, eight fewer than the year before.

Despite the dangerous nature of the job, firearms officers, who undergo weeks of training, do not receive a higher salary and can be subject to scrutiny for their actions on duty.

A Home Office spokesman said armed officer numbers might have been impacted in the short-term by the coronavirus pandemic.