New anti-arson campaign

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CAMBRIDGESHIRE police and fire services are warning of the dangers and possible consequences of starting fires as part of a campaign to tackle arson.

The campaign coincides with the start of the warmer months when statistics show arson offences peak. The better weather, lighter evenings and school holidays are believed to be a factor.

As well as enforcement, the campaign will involve educating young people about the seriousness of arson through school visits. Pupils will learn about the consequences of arson both for themselves and for victims involved.

When arson trends are spotted in particular areas, police and the fire service meet other agencies on the Cambridgeshire Arson Partnership to coordinate a response.

Martin Boome, who leads the partnership, said the majority of fires were started by a relatively small number of people.

He said: “I want to stress the potentially serious consequences of starting a fire. It is not just setting fire to a pile of rubbish or a rubbish bin. It is creating work for firefighters that could delay their response to an incident where a life is at risk.

“Fire can also be very unpredictable and can easily spread and become more serious than initially intended.

“Arson is a very serious offence and those caught starting fires will be dealt with robustly by police and the courts.”

In 2011 in Cambridgeshire, there were 104 arsons in April, 126 in May, 73 in June, 85 in July and 121 in August – a total of 509.

In the five months from September to the end of January, there were 291 deliberate fires.

Mr Boome has access to police crimefiles, allowing him to ensure information is shared between agencies.

He said fire officers had been educated on how they can help police investigations and now complete a form following arsons to ensure information they receive is not lost.

Arson factfile

* The maximum sentence for arson is life imprisonment

* There is normally a rise in arson during the warmer, summer months

* Arson is a criminal conviction that will stay on a person’s record for the rest of their life and is likely to affect their career

* It will also prevent the person from entering some countries, including the USA

* Fire is unpredictable and can move very quickly, trapping people in buildings

* To help prevent arson, residents should ensure wheelie bins and flammable items are not stored near houses and preferably locked away

* A security light on properties can deter arsonists

Anyone with information about arson should call police on 101 or, if a crime is in progress, call 999.