New gun-crime figures suggest West Yorkshire is a safer place to live than other parts of the country.

The level of gun crime in the county is well below the national average, according to the latest Home Office statistics.

Offences involving firearms in West Yorkshire increased by only one to 333 in 2002/2003 compared to the previous year.

Nationally, gun crime was up by two per cent - compared to a 34 per cent hike the previous year. The figures showed there were 20 such offences for every 100,000 residents across the country, but in West Yorkshire the figure dropped to 16. In North Yorkshire gun crime fell by a third.

West Yorkshire Assistant Chief Constable (Operational Support) John Sampson said: "When the figures are broken down you see that very few involve the actual firing of a weapon."

Bradford traffic policeman Ian Broadhurst, 34, was shot dead in Leeds on Boxing Day as he tried to arrest a man after stopping a car.

Mr Sampson said: "Recent events in West Yorkshire highlight the very real danger of guns. But, thankfully, such incidents are very rare. Crimes involving firearms account for just 0.5 per cent of all reported crimes. Guns are out there and being used by criminals, but we want to reassure people that we are working hard to take out of circulation those who use guns and those who supply them."

Firearms officers in West Yorkshire are now allowed to routinely carry their handguns in their hip holsters.

The Government has brought in tough new laws to bring firearms offences down. People caught in possession of an illegal firearm will now receive a mandatory five-year jail term.

Quarterly crime figures, also released by the Home Office, showed violent crime rose by 14 per cent across the country from July to September last year. Offences of serious violence climbed from 10,000 to 11,800 with offences of violence against the person up by 17 per cent. The figures included an 18 per cent rise in more serious violence like homicide and serious wounding. Sex offences and criminal damage were also up.