The University of Northampton has inaugurated its "Centre for the Reduction of Firearms Crime, Trafficking and Terrorism," the first institute of its kind in the United Kingdom amid calls from its first director Dr. Helen Poole for law enforcement to focus on the geographical origin of seized weaponry as a means for preventing future gun violence.
"One of the problems that's identified internationally, it's not any country in particular, is that law enforcement officers will seize a gun, get a conviction of the person who committed the offense and leave it there. What they're not necessarily doing is investigating where that weapon came from, and look at ballistic and other intelligence that might identify the roots of that weapon. So what we're trying to promote and what Interpol and the United Nations are trying to promote is for people to treat that weapon as a potential form of intelligence, not just a seizure," Dr. Poole explained.
Gun crime in England and Wales shot up by 20 percent last year according to figures from the Office of National Statistics, a rise which is largely unexplained and which Dr. Poole emphasized the Center must focus on studying.
"We had a lot of success in reducing gun crime up until this point, that's because we had a strong focus on it, the legislation became much tougher, we already have really strict licensing laws. Although we're relatively protected in the UK by being surrounded by water, weapons are still getting into the country via alternative means," she said
Of particular concern to law enforcement is the flow of small arms from current and former conflict zones. Dr. Poole noted that the former Yugoslavia has been source of weapons used in various terrorist attacks across Europe in recent years, namely the Paris attacks of 2015.
Syria and Libya have also been identified as areas of concern and largescale weapons smuggling by countries involved in particularly the Syrian conflict have flooded the region with cheap small arms easily trafficable and attainable by criminals.
"We know that there's a large movement of weapons from south-east Europe because there are estimates of anywhere between two and six million firearms that are in circulation in that area following the conflict in Yugoslavia, and those weapons move across Europe and we know that they do because those weapons were used in the Paris attacks. We recently stopped a shipment, the National Crime Agency here, that was coming into Kent via boat and they were from Slovakia. Anywhere where you've got post-conflict regions with surplus weapons that nobody's got their eye on is going to be a potential hazard for gun-trafficking," Dr. Poole added.
The views and opinions expressed by Dr. Helen Poole are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.