Police officers armed with submachine guns are to be deployed on routine patrol of Britain’s streets for the first time.
A hand-picked team from CO19, the Metropolitan Police’s elite firearms unit, will walk the beat in gun crime hotspots where armed gangs have turned entire estates into “no go” zones.
Local politicians and anti-gun campaigners have reacted with anger at the news that the officers will carry Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns – capable of firing up to 800 rounds-per-minute – and Glock semi-automatic pistols.
CO19 currently provides armed support in volatile situations like sieges and terrorist attacks, with its officers on constant call in vehicles around London.
But this is the first time that armed officers will be sent on permanent foot patrol anywhere in the country outside Northern Ireland.
“Historically, CO19 was only called out when someone rang up to report a gun crime,” said Inspector Derek Carroll, head of the new unit. “But a lot of streets in London have young people in postcode gangs, aged 14 and upwards, and a lot of communities feel that they are controlling areas of estates.