Crackdown on arson

A CRACKDOWN on arson is due to be rolled out across the county following a successful trial in Peterborough.

The Cambridgeshire Arson Partnership brings together the fire service, police, housing associations and other agencies to tackle fire starters.

It follows the successful piloting of an arson investigation unit in Peterborough in the spring of last year led by fire officer Martin Boome.

From 2009/10 to 2010/11, the number of arsons more than halved in the city, from 662 to 313.

Mr Boome, who leads the partnership, has access to police crime files, allowing him to ensure that information is shared, and when an arson trend is spotted a meeting of the agencies is called to devise an action plan.

A full analysis of the crimes is carried out and options are discussed.

Solutions often include:

·Identifying and disrupting and catching those responsible

.Making changes to the environment to prevent and deter further arson attacks

·Educating children in schools about the consequences of arson

Mr Boome said agencies working together more closely had led to more prosecutions.

Fire officers have also been educated about how they can help police investigations into the arson attacks.

Firefighters now complete a form following arsons to ensure information they receive that could help a criminal investigation, such as descriptions of possible suspects, is not lost.

Mr Boome said: “Our aim, first and foremost, is to prosecute people responsible for arson, as this acts as a deterrent to others.

“That’s why we are educating fire officers all the time in how they can help the police to conduct criminal inquiries.

“In the past, firefighters may have seen something important at a scene and it would get forgotten but now it gets recorded and could become evidence.”

Mr Boome said education was also very important.

He added: “It would be wrong to assume young people are always responsible, but sometimes they do not understand the consequences of arson and how destructive fire can be.

“They also fail to understand how serious it is and that it can lead to a custodial sentence.”