ARSON is a serious crime that can risk lives and police and partner agencies are committed to catching those responsible and preventing offences.
The Cambridgeshire Arson Partnership brings together the fire service, police, housing associations and other agencies in a joint approach that has proved successful.
When arson trends are spotted in particular areas, police and the fire service meet other agencies on the partnership to coordinate a response.
A full analysis of the crimes is carried out and solutions often include:
- Identifying, 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
Cambridgeshire police and fire service have launched a campaign to warn of the dangers and possible consequences of starting fires.
Part of the campaign is educating children about the potentially disastrous consequences of starting fires, even if it is just in a pile of rubbish.
Any fire can delay firefighters from attending another blaze where a life may be at risk.
Fire can also be very unpredictable and can easily spread and become more serious than initially intended.
The partnership is particularly keen to gets its message out during the summer months when, historically, the number of arson offences tends to rise.
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 only 291 deliberate fires.
- 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.
- In October 2011, two teenage boys who started a fire that took hold of a village post office were sentenced to strict supervision orders. The boys, aged 14 and 16, admitted setting fire to a toilet roll in a large commercial wheelie bin near to the store in Town Green Road, Orwell, on March 5. The fire spread to the shop and neighbouring homes. They pleaded guilty to recklessly setting fire to the bin, plus the criminal damage of two nearby cars. At Cambridge Crown Court, both boys were sentenced to a two year referral order with two years’ supervision from the Youth Offending Team.
- In March 2012, a 17-year-old boy, who was part of a gang that set fire to sheds in Orton Goldhay, Peterborough, was ordered to pay £400 in compensation to victims and given a six month referral order, meaning he will have to attend regular supervision appointments. He and a number of other boys had been arrested in connection with a string of fires started deliberately in the Ortons, Woodston and Fletton, Peterborough.
- A woman and two men were jailed in March 2012 for conspiring to set a property on fire in Ellindon, Bretton, Peterborough. The 19-year-old woman wanted to leave the property, which she rented from Cross Keys Homes because she was having problems with an ex-boyfriend. However, the request had been refused and she had moved all her clothes from the flat, only leaving basic furniture. The teenager agreed that her sister’s 30-year-old boyfriend and his 22-year-old friend would go to the flat and set it on fire while she was at her sister’s. On the evening of Sunday, August 22, 2010, the men used a plastic bottle with the end cut off to pour flammable fluid through the letter box before setting it alight. The alarm was raised and a neighbour put the flames out with buckets of water. A later investigation revealed the fire did not spread because of a lack of combustible material in the hallway but about £5000 of damage was caused. One offender’s fingerprints were found on the plastic bottle, which had been recovered from a wheelie bin at the scene, and a witness told Peterborough Crown Court she heard all three discussing the arson. The trio were found guilty: the men both being jailed for five years and the woman two years.