The number of police firearms operations in England and Wales has fallen for the first time in four years, official figures show.

Operations fell by 4% between April 2019 and March this year to 19,372. This was 820 fewer than the previous period and sees the first drop in usage since the year to March 2016, a Home Office report said.

Officers’ guns were discharged at people in five incidents, down from 13 in the previous period. This is the lowest number of incidents since 2013/14 when there were four.

The two largest police forces – the Metropolitan Police and West Midlands Police – carried out 35% of the operations, with 4,195 and 2,562 respectively.

Incidents in which police firearms were discharged in England and Wales
(PA Graphics)

Although having the highest proportion of operations, the numbers fell in both areas compared to the previous period.

In the North East there was a 119% rise in the number of operations (387), driven by a “large increase” in usage by Cleveland and Northumbria forces.

But despite having the largest percentage increase, the region still saw the lowest number of operations taking place, the report said.

Some 91% (17,687) of the operations involved an armed response vehicle – the highest proportion since 2009/10 (80%).

The statistics also show the number of armed officers has fallen 2% to 6,518. This drop of 103 officers in the 12-month period brings to an end a three-year rise in numbers which has continued from 2017.

The previous annual rises are likely to have been linked to a recruitment drive, the Home Office said.

The report added: “The proportion of armed officers to unarmed officer has remained stable over the last four years at around 5%.”