Armed police are attending more incidents

Armed police respond to an incident at a flat on Judith Road, Kettering.

Armed police respond to an incident at a flat on Judith Road, Kettering.

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Police officers are carrying firearms more frequently to operations, but a top officer says this is not because the county is getting more violent.

Home Office figures show Northamptonshire Police authorised the use of firearms in 182 operations between 2011 and 2012, a rise from 129 between 2010 and 2011.

Between 2002 and 2003, the force was authorised to use firearms in 138 operations and the most recent figures are a 10-year-high.

However, Inspector Steve Freeman, of Northants Police Firearms training unit, said this rise does not indicate a more violent county. Insp Freeman said it reflects the way the force now responds to incidents where there is a perceived “armed threat”.

He said: “Things have changes in recent years, so command assess armed threats differently.

“For instance, say if we received reports of somebody carrying a sword, or machete, this threat would be assessed differently.

“We would now use the employment of our officers to this sort of threat, or operation.”

He added: “We have not experienced more violent crime in my experience, or more firearms.”

He said the rise between the 2011 to 2012 period also reflects the fact that the county’s force was targeting an organised crime group and a number of operations were undertaken involving firearms officers, as they looked to arrest them.

However, Insp Freeman added: “We have officers who routinely carry firearms but 95 per cent of the time they are dealing with every day procedures, only five per cent of the time they are dealing with arms related incidents.”