POLICE recorded almost 200 gun crimes in Essex during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic.

Home Office figures show Essex Police recorded 194 crimes involving firearms that year – and has dealt with 2,613 since police force records began in 2007-08.

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

It shows weapons were fired 96 times during incidents recorded by Essex Police last year.

There were 10 firearm offences for every 100,000 people in the Essex policing area in 2020-21 – the same rate as the year before.

Lockdowns and other coronavirus restrictions contributed to gun crime dropping nationally in the year to March, but police forces across England and Wales still logged thousands of offences.

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.

Gun crime dropped nationally by 14 per cent compared to 2019-20 and has fallen significantly over 13 years – last year, it was 42 per cent lower than in 2007-08.

Essex Police logged 260 gun crimes in 2007-08, 25 per cent more than last year and the equivalent of 15 in every 100,000 people.

The number of firearm crimes recorded by the force was at its highest in 2007-08.

A government spokesman said it was recruiting 20,000 extra police officers and had given forces greater powers to stop and search, in an effort to tackle the issue and remove dangerous weapons from the streets.

He said the country had some of the toughest gun controls in the world and that firearms offences made up a small proportion of recorded crime, adding: "We know that everyone in Britain deserves safe streets, homes and communities."