Gun offences falling despite latest incidents, says expert

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 12:00am

Yesterday's Mongkok shooting and the murder of a policeman with his own gun two months ago came in spite of the decline in weapons offences in Hong Kong, a leading criminologist said.

Dr Roderic Broadhurst of the University of Hong Kong's centre for criminology said that while some mainland crime was drifting over the border, it was an 'unfortunate coincidence' that yesterday's shootings came so soon after the death of Constable Leung Shing-yan.

He said the few people who had guns were usually prepared to shoot if they had to, but stringent gun control meant there were few genuine firearms in the SAR.

Last Thursday, 85 police swooped on a Sha Tin home where they found two military-style pistols and 12 rounds of ammunition they believed could have been used in recent armed robberies.

Figures supplied by police yesterday show that the number of crimes involving guns has remained fairly stable over the past five years. Last year there were 76 robberies in which the culprit was armed with a pistol or a fake handgun, compared to 65 in 1999, 50 in 1998, 66 in 1997 and 76 in 1996. There were 67 cases of firearms and ammunition possession last year, down from 68 in 1999, 74 in 1998, 115 in 1997 and 72 in 1996.

'I don't think there's any growing trend in the use of firearms,' he said. 'Armed robberies have been in decline for about a decade - there are probably about 20 or 30 cases a year now. And it's a pretty rare event for police and offenders to clash like this. It's just an unfortunate coincidence.'

He said that criminals who carried weapons used them mainly to frighten their victims, 'but you don't carry guns that are loaded if you're not prepared to use them'. Dr Broadhurst said that convincing fake pistols were widely available in Hong Kong, which was a problem, but real weapons - usually mainland-made 9mm Black Star handguns - were few.

'The gun laws here are pretty good; they're pretty hostile towards people carrying guns of any kind.

'We're subject to visits from neighbours and there's a crime displacement problem, but I think the laws are fairly strict and the Government and the police, in particular, take it fairly seriously.'