THE rising level of illegal weapon possession has resulted in more than 20 people appearing in court on firearms offences in the last six months.

Cleveland Police is determined to remove as many weapons as possible off the streets following a number of gunshot incidents connected to drug feuds.

So far, only one person has suffered serious injuries but the fear is that the growing use of firearms will result in somebody suffering fatal gunshot injuries.

The Northern Echo: Drugs, cash and weapons seized from a Teesside propertyDrugs, cash and weapons seized from a Teesside property

There is a direct connection between feuds involving rival drug gangs and the increased availability of weapons across the force area, according to a senior officer.

Detective Superintendent Helen Barker, who is heading up the force's hunt for weapons, wants to get as many offenders into court to face justice as she can before someone is killed.

The Northern Echo: Detective Superintendent Helen BarkerDetective Superintendent Helen Barker

The array of weapons seized by officers in recent months include improvised 'slam-guns', stun guns, high-powered air weapons, pepper spray and crossbows.

She said: “There’s a lot of weapons held illegally in the area and those are the ones that we want to take action against.

“Serious violence is a priority for the force but it is not something that comes under a single task force, it’s classed as daily business for everybody because clearly it is something that does impact on communities, even if they are not the direct target of the incidents.”

Some of the people to appear in court include Carl Eland and Leon Parkinson, who were involved in a shoot-out in broad daylight on a Middlesbrough street.

The Northern Echo: Carl ElandCarl Eland

Parkinson is due to be sentenced later this month for his part in the incident in June. Mr Eland was killed two months later when he was knocked off his bike.

In July, a large amount of cannabis, suspected cocaine and an air rifle were seized from addresses on Moorcock Close in Redcar.

Five people aged between 17 and 25 were arrested on suspicion of drugs offences. They have been released pending further enquiries.

The Northern Echo: Air rifle, cannabis and suspected cocaine seized in police operationAir rifle, cannabis and suspected cocaine seized in police operation

Det Supt Barker added: “We are absolutely committed to following every line of enquiry that we can in relation to these incidents and taking as many people to court as we can.

“These individuals shouldn’t be on the streets where they can cause harm to anybody.”

In May, 26-year-old Billingham man was arrested in for drug offences and was also in possession of pepper spray. The case is going through the court system.

In the same month, Kevin John Kinlan was fined £319 after he admitted possessing cannabis and pepper spray.

The 27-year-old, of Ashbrooke Way, Middlesbrough, pleaded guilty when he appeared at Teesside Magistrates' Court.

However, not every case is linked to drugs as court records show people have been fined for possession of illegal firearms.

And 56-year-old Stuart Pennick, of Cedarwood Glade, Middlesbrough, was given a conditional discharge after he admitted possession of a stun-gun.

While Robert Holdsworth, 38, of Saltersgill Avenue, Middlesbrough, was ordered to pay £180 to the court after admitting possession of a stun-gun.