POLICE recorded more than 100 gun crimes in Hampshire during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lockdowns and other restrictions contributed to gun crime dropping nationally in the year to March.

But Home Office figures show Hampshire Constabulary still recorded 109 crimes involving firearms that year – and has dealt with 1,373 since police force level records began in 2007-08.

A spokesperson for the force said: "Hampshire Constabulary works tirelessly in bringing violent offenders involved in gun crime to justice.

Stock image of a Hampshire Constabulary patrol car in Southampton

"Even though UK firearm offences remain at relatively low levels compared to other countries, we are not complacent and will continue to target those individuals who bring the most harm to our communities through intelligence led, targeted operations.

"Firearms being acquired and distributed by criminal networks will always be deeply concerning to local communities, therefore reducing the number of firearms on our streets is a priority for us.

"Over the last decade, experts from the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) have enabled police forces to use ground breaking ballistic forensic services and intelligence packages, which helps prevent and detect gun crime.

There were five firearm offences for every 100,000 people in the Hampshire policing area in 2020-21 – down from nine the year before.

The data covers crimes involving lethal firearms like shotguns and handguns and non-lethal weapons such as stun guns, but excludes offences involving air weapons.

It shows weapons were discharged or fired 40 times during incidents recorded by Hampshire Constabulary last year.

"We often execute intelligence led operations to target those we believe are involved in carrying firearms, and we also take part in national surrender campaigns that provide opportunities to dispose of a firearm or ammunition by simply taking it to a local designated police station and handing it in," added the spokesperson.

"If you are concerned about someone you know illegally carrying a firearm, knife or other weapon, you can report it to police or you can give information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or by using an anonymous online form, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."

Nationally, more than 1,000 people were injured and dozens died as a result of gun crime in 2020-21, when forces in England and Wales tackled 5,700 firearms offences.

Robberies and violent attacks made up more than half of all gun crimes, with offences most common on the streets.

The largest proportion of crimes involved handguns, while weapons were fired in more than half of the incidents recorded. Victims were most likely to be in their 20s.