Armed police: Gun crime has seen a fall in London.

Evening Standard/London

The number of armed police operations in London is falling with fewer reports of firearms offences in the capital.

New figures released by Scotland Yard show there a total of 4,432 deployments by armed officers in 2011 compared to 4,656 the previous year.

The number of times armed officers responded to emergency calls has also fallen in recent years, partly as a result of fewer people reporting the use of guns on the streets.

The figures were released by Scotland Yard after two men were shot and injured by armed officers responding to the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich last week.

Senior officers say police armed response vehicles - ARVS - are called to around 3,000 incidents a year but officers rarely fire their weapons.

In the last four years police have fired just 13 shots and one person, Mark Duggan, has been killed by police marksmen.

Police say the statistics support evidence that armed crime in London is falling. Recent figures show gun crime down by up to 16% while the number of firearms murders in London fell to just six in 2012.

Police also say that new procedures introduced after barrister Mark Saunders was shot dead by Met officers in his Chelsea townhouse in 2008 have improved the force’s response to gun crime.

Chief Superintendent Alistair Sutherland, the head of the Yard’s CO19 firearms section, said police were getting better at assessing the intelligence around reports of guns.

Specialist commanders based at the Yard’s operations room now review 999 calls concerning weapons and can even speak directly to the caller to decide if armed officers need to attend.

The latest figures show that there were 1,182 pre-planned armed operations in London last year, compared to 1,387 the previous year and 1,703 in 2010.

Sutherland added: “Overall gun crime is falling and the number of firearms we seize is also significant.”

Last year police seized 1,700 firearms from the streets, including 12 machine guns, 1,227 hand guns and 326 rifles.

He said he was amazed at the restraint shown by firearms officers every week, saying : “They often have to make split second decisions to resolve dangerous situations and often do so without using force.”

At any time between 13 and 22 armed response cars are on patrol in London.

The average response time for an ARV to reach an incident is eight minutes, with a target time to reach calls by 15 minutes.

Each is manned by three armed officers equipped with G36 rifles, Heckler & Koch MP5 carbines, Glock 17 handguns, Tasers and baton guns.

Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the head of Scotland Yard’s specialist crime and operations, said the “behind the scenes” work by firearms officers was helping drive down armed criminality.

He said : “About 3,000 times a year we send ARVs to 999 calls where is reason to believe that there are people with weapons.

“Around a handful of times every week firearms officers are arresting people with their guns drawn but on very few occasions do they pull the trigger.”