Gun offences in Gainsborough and the rest of Lincolnshire are at their highest level for ten years, new figures show.
However, Lincolnshire police insist the county remains “a very safe place”, pointing out that the statistics also include minor offences.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the force investigated 35 offences involving a firearm between April 2017 and March 2018.
That is the highest number since 2007/08 when there were 41 cases, and it reflects the fact that, across England and Wales, gun offences are at their worst level for many years.
Research suggests one of the reasons is an increasing supply of illegal firearms being smuggled into this country from Europe.
Criminologist Peter Squires said: “Guns are getting into the UK through fast-parcel services, internet-based orders and regular smuggling through confinements of drugs.
“A particular concern has been the use of antique firearms being recycled for criminal use, and also shotguns being stolen from farms and sawn down.”
For Lincolnshire police, Det Chief Insp Stephen Knubley said: “We want to be clear that the 35 offences include 19 for the use of firing a BB gun.
“The rest include the use of a paintball gun and incidents involving items that have not been identified as a gun, such as a concealed item used for an attempted robbery.
“The category of firearms covers a wide spectrum. Lincolnshire is a very safe place, and it is very rare for a legitimate firearm to be use.”
The number of offences in Lincolnshire involving knives or sharp weapons is also up -- by as much as 46 per cent on four years earlier. The police recorded 231 cases between April 2017 and March 2018.
However, alarm over the increase is mitigated by the fact that the number of knife offences in the county, 31 per 100,000 people, is much lower than the national average of 69 per 100,000.
The number of murders or manslaughters in Lincolnshire is also below average. The number dropped last year from 13 cases to only five, whereas in the East Midlands as a whole, the figure went up by two per cent to 49.
Policing minister Nick Hurd insists the government is determined to tackle the problem of all violent crime.