Scores of guns which were handed in as part of a firearms surrender are being destroyed at Eastbourne’s police station.
The custody centre in Hammond's Drive is the hub for firearms which have been seized or handed in across East and West Sussex, and the centre of a police scheme getting people to surrender their weapons this month.
Spearheading the drive, called Operation Aztec, is Detective Inspector Vanessa Britton. She said to the Herald, “We’re encouraging anybody that has legally or illegally held firearms to surrender them to Sussex Police.
“That means, for the time of the surrender, anybody can bring a firearm into a police station and we’ll look at it and decide whether we need to send it off for further examination.
“I need to make it really clear that, because it’s a firearms surrender, it doesn’t mean we will not look at the history of a firearm. If there’s a criminal investigation that needs to be done we will do it.
“And that’s the difference between a firearms surrender and a firearms amnesty. The main purpose of this surrender is to bring items like this off the streets and into the safe custody of police forces because there’s a real risk of any of these falling into criminal hands and being used to conduct serious crime.
"We really want to show we take this very, very seriously and to provide that reassurance and bring these off the streets.”
Among the weapons which have been handed in so far is a German service pistol from the Second World War, and a revolver which was made in Italy for the French military. It had been found on Tuesday (July 30) by people clearing out a relative’s property.
One gun was loaded with live ammunition when it was surrendered. If it had been fired, it could have blown up and caused a serious injury.
“Metal would have gone everywhere,” said NABIS (National Ballistics Intelligence Service) officer Simon Fenner, “It would have been very painful, not just for the person that fired it either.”
The weapons are destroyed safely in a large machine nicknamed ‘the cruncher’, then the debris is disposed of.
Following a rise in recorded firearms offences across the UK in 2017, the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) has asked all police forces in England, Scotland and Wales to take part in a national firearms surrender in 2019.
The surrender in Sussex is running from Monday July 20 to Sunday August 4.
A similar surrender campaign in 2017 by Sussex Police saw 552 "ballistic items", 441 of which were guns, handed in to the force. These included various shotguns, pistols, rifles and a number of antique items – weapons which could potentially be lethal if in the wrong hands.
During the two-week campaign, those surrendering firearms will not face prosecution for the illegal possession and they can remain anonymous. However, a prosecution may be sought if individuals are found in illegal possession of firearms after this period.
Find out more by visiting the Sussex Police website.
Photos by Jon Rigby.