Derbyshire’s armed police unit were called out more than 200 times in 2017, we can reveal.
A Freedom of Information request by this newspaper to Derbyshire police found armed officers responded to 222 incidents up until November 30.
This is far more than the 123 occasions in 2015/2016 and 197 in 2014/2015.
Explaining the reason for the increase, Superintendent Adrian Gascoyne, who is in charge of our firearms unit, said: “We have a dedicated armed response unit in Derbyshire whose role it is to respond to any firearms-related calls, ranging from people who believe they have witnessed someone with a gun, to someone who legitimately owns a firearm and wants to dispose of it safely.
“The figures shows that in the financial year from 2014-15, we had 197 callouts, while in 2015-16 it was 123. The figure was higher in 2014-15 because, in October 2014, we held a county-wide firearms surrender and saw a spike in calls from people taking part in that.
“We have also responded to 222 calls so far in 2017 – again, a large number of which will be down to the firearms surrender we held last month, that resulted in just shy of 200 weapons being handed in.”
He added: “As always, we actively encourage people to call us if they have information about firearms so we can continue to keep Derbyshire safe for our communities and visitors.”
Armed officers conducted foot patrols in parts of Derbyshire over Christmas and New Year following strong public support for the proposal and was designed to make everyone feel safer during the festive and New Year period.
It was the first time the force chose to put armed officers on overt patrol during Christmas and New Year, bringing it in line with other forces in the East Midlands.
Derbyshire Constabulary’s Armed Response Unit conducted a poll on its Twitter account in September, with 2,280 followers responding. Ninety per cent said they would be happy to see armed police patrolling busy areas such as shopping centres and markets, while six per cent said they wouldn’t be happy. Four per cent of respondents were unsure.
Chris Haward, Derbyshire’s assistant chief constable, said at the time: “Consultation with our communities has suggested widespread support for overt armed foot patrols at this busy time of year.
“Over the past 12 to 18 months, events across the UK and Europe have understandably raised fear and we hope the patrols will make people feel safe and show them that we are prepared.”
Mr Haward said the officers will be on patrol but will remain near to their vehicles, should they be needed to attend an incident.
He added: “People should not be alarmed by the officers, who will be happy to talk to you if they’re not dealing with an incident.
“Please feel free to approach them and speak to them about their role.”