1,000 Guns Seized as Youth Violence Soars; Hard Core of Teenage Criminals Behind Surge in Street Shootings

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Byline: Justin Davenport Crime Correspondent

THE MET has seized more than 1,000 guns as "extreme" youth violence in London soars.

New figures show officers have confiscated hundreds of handguns, shotguns and sub-machineguns in the first seven months of the year.

While overall the level of youth violence is falling, officers fear a hardcore of teenage criminals is at increased risk. Last week three boys of 12 were arrested in a raid on 124 suspected young gang members.

Police seized knives, guns, imitation firearms and thousands of pounds in cash. Recent Met figures have shown a sharp jump in gun crime in London with a 14 per cent rise in four months during the summer.

Figures obtained by the Standard also show that in July the number of gun crime offences where shots were fired more than doubled to 101 compared to just 49 in the same month last year.

The number of weapons seized by Operation Trident teams, which target armed drug gangs, also rose by a third in the first half of the year.

The news comes amid fears that young criminals are engaged in a frightening new level of "chaotic" gun crime.

Teenage gunmen are prepared to shoot rivals over petty issues of respect, according to Commander Martin Hewitt.

The head of the Organised Crime and Criminal Networks unit said: "A small element of people [is] prepared to use very extreme levels of violence for seemingly very little reason.

"It is a new phenomenon, a propensity for extreme violence. When Operation Trident first started the gun crime that was taking place was the enforced offshoot of criminal activity.

"Where it is different now is that it is less to do with organised crime but more to do with respect issues and disagreements. It is more chaotic, more spontaneous. It is a matter of reputation and issues around peer pressure."

Many criminals are inflicting "war wounds" on rivals by shooting them in the legs. The number of these shootings now stands at 72, more than double the total for last year. Police say they are also witnessing a rise in the number of turf war shootings.

Among the guns recovered by police are 217 "live-firing" weapons, including 136 handguns, 72 shotguns and nine sub-machineguns.

Today a senior homicide detective told the Standard: "There appear to be a lot more guns in circulation. Our teams are seizing a record number of weapons from the street. There is not a week that goes by without an Operation Trident team arresting people with guns. It has never been busier.

"Some shootings are clearly revengetype acts where people do not intend to kill but to cause serious injury. …