GWENT Police have responded to the news that armed officers were deployed more times by by the force last year than at any other time in the last decade, despite a fall in the number of armed officers.

Police forces across the country have seen an “explosion” in violent crime over the past year, according to the Police Federation of England and Wales.

Home Office stats showed Gwent Police carried out 252 armed response operations in the 12 months to March 2018.

This was an increase of 52 per cent from the previous year, when armed officers attended 166 operations, and an increase of 196 per cent from five years ago.

But at the same time, the number of armed officers in the force fell from 42 in 2017 to 41 in 2018.

Armed officer numbers were at their highest level in Gwent in 2008, at 63 officers.

Head of Specialist Operations, Superintendent Glyn Fernquest explained that the force worked hard with their partner forces of South Wales and Dyfed Powys to ensure a Joint Firearms Unit has the right number of resources to keep local communities safe and support the national policing picture.

Sup Int Fernquest added: “The number of firearms deployments per year are made up of various different deployments such as armed officers presence as a contingency to support large events to ensure our communities and visitors can enjoy themselves safely, proactive operations to disrupt serious and organised crime, along to specific incidents which require a firearms response to ensure the safety of the public, officers and those involved.

“Our excellent joint working arrangements with other forces in the region mean we have the capacity to deploy these special skills when need to protect our communities.”

The Police and Crime Commissioner's office told the South Wales Argus that they did not wish to add anything to the explanation from Gwent Police.