Headlines: December 8th, 2004

Local initiatives are succeeding in reducing the incidence of arson according to a review of more than 30 projects that have been funded by the Government’s Arson Control Forum. It shows that where local initiatives have been set up the number of deliberate fires has fallen by about 2 per cent, compared with a 27 per cent increase in deliberate fires where no action has been taken.The projects under review range from clearing abandoned vehicles before they become a target for arsonists, to schemes working with young people to reduce fire-setting and anti-social behaviour. Fire Safety Minister Phil Hope said arson was still the largest single cause of major fires in the UK but across the country progress was beginning to be made with the numbers of deliberate fires falling.

He said the review emphasised the importance of partnership working and highlighted how local projects were invaluable in helping combat arson. They were driving down the number of deliberate fires and saving taxpayers’ money. He said that for every pound invested in each project it was estimated that at least 16 pounds was being saved in terms of the cost of fires to the economy.

Mr Hope confirmed there would be continued investment through the Arson Control Forum, which has so far put more than 11.5 million pounds into local projects.

Examples of good practice highlighted in the report include a car clearance scheme in Avon, that led to a fall of almost a quarter in deliberate fires between January and May last year. Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service has set up a Youth Engagement Team, to teach socially-excluded young people the importance of fire safety. Since the scheme began in September 2002, there has been a 36 per cent reduction in malicious fires in Toxteth and the city centre. In Wealden, in East Sussex, the police, fire and rescue service, local councils and the local Youth Offending Team are running a scheme to make young people aware of the dangers and consequences of car crime, with sessions focusing on arson. Tthe number of deliberate fires in vehicles in Wealden has fallen by 20 per cent.