Headlines: June 21st, 2005

As a result of efforts by Arson Task Forces, cars clear schemes and other local arson reduction projects the number of arson attacks has fallen by 18%. The Task Forces are made up from police fire and rescue services and local authorities. Arson causes 100 needless deaths and 2,500 injuries a year. Motives range from revenge, fraud, and crime concealment to simple vandalism. The poorest communities are hardest hit, with those on low incomes 31 times more likely to be affected by deliberate fire-setting and sixteen times more likely to die as a result of such a fire. The annual cost of arson is estimated at 2.8 billion pounds.The majority of arson attacks appear to be committed by a small group of prolific offenders, many of whom are under 18 and also commit other offences. Fire and rescue services across the country already undertake some youth intervention work targeted at children with an excessive interest in fire-play or adolescents whose fire-setting behaviour is linked to other forms of anti-social behaviour such as vandalism.

A new guide for fire prevention for teachers called ‘Protecting our future – Looking after our schools’ has been launched by Zurich Municipal, the UK’s leading education insurer and provider of risk management. Zurich has renewed its call for sprinklers to be made compulsory in all new or refurbished schools. According to research carried out by the insurer, the cost of fires in schools totalled 84million pounds in 2004, however not one of the schools suffering a large fire was fitted with a sprinkler system and there are less than 200 systems fitted in the 30,000 schools across the UK, despite campaigns by Zurich, the Local Government Association and the Fire Service.

The Home Office also announced that overall crime is down by 11 per cent over the 12 months to December 2004, to nearly half the level it was at its peak in 1995. The public are also showing increased confidence that justice will be done when a crime is committed. These findings come from the British Crime Survey.