Headlines: October 19th, 2005

Partnerships between fire and rescue services and the communities they serve are succeeding in driving down the number of cases of arson according to new figures. The latest statistics show a drop of more than a fifth in deliberately started fires since last year.The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is calling on local councils to keep up the fight against fire setting and to put special emphasis on work with children and young people. According to the Arson Control Forum’s annual report there were 75,800 deliberate fires in the year ending December 2004, down by 21 per cent on the number in 2003. In the same period deliberate road vehicle fires fell by a quarter.

The report pays special attention to arson reduction initiatives in Staffordshire, Bristol, Kent, Luton and Northumberland as well as giving details of all the local schemes funded by the Arson Control Forum across the country. In spite of the reduction in arson it is still behind more than half of primary fires in the UK and causes 100 deaths and 2,500 injuries a year. The report says motives for arson include revenge, fraud, and the concealment of crime as well as vandalism and fire-play.

The forum says that the poorest communities are hit hardest by arson with people 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. Its research shows that the majority of arson attacks are committed by a small group of prolific offenders, many of them under 18 who also commit other offences.

The ODPM minister with responsibility for fire and safety issues, Jim Fitzpatrick, said the challenge now was to maintain momentum and tackle some of the more complex factors behind deliberate fire-setting, especially where children and young people were involved.

Fire and rescue services across the country already undertake intervention work targeted at children with an excessive interest in fire-play and with adolescents whose fire-setting behaviour is linked to other forms of anti-social behaviour such as vandalism.