Arsons cost Essex economy £8 million in three years

A straw blaze (stock image).

A straw blaze (stock image). - Credit: citizenside.com

Fire chiefs say they are stepping up educational work with youngsters who have an “unhealthy fascination with fire”.

Some 149 teenagers and 26 children aged 11 or 12 have also been caught in the last three years by police, who are deploying extra resources over Halloween and asking shops not to sell eggs or flour to youngsters.

Julian Ashley, senior divisional officer at the Essex Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Our officers speak to more than 117,000 children at Essex schools every year, including 54,000 in October – our school team’s busiest month.

“We also have the Juvenile Fire Setters scheme, which is an early intervention scheme targeting children and teenagers who have an unhealthy fascination with fire.

“We speak to them one-to-one to help them understand the dangers of deliberately setting fires, which can cause devastation and risk lives.


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“We also chair an arson prevention forum working with Essex Police, local authorities and trading standards officers which aims to cut down arson attacks by sharing intelligence and providing information to residents and businesses about what they can do to prevent arson.”

The figures, released by Essex Police under Freedom of Information laws, showed the total value of damage caused by arsons totalled £8,026,299 from 2012/13 to 2014/15 in the county.

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Buildings, vehicles and agricultural machinery, as well as garden equipment, clothing and antiques, have all been targeted by arsonists.

The number of arsons has also failed to significantly reduce in each of the last three financially years, falling from 466 to 452 from 2012/13 to 2014/15.

Out of the 1,372 in total, 155 were classed as endangering life.

An Essex Police spokesman said: “Arson is a crime that not only causes damage and misery for victims but can be extremely dangerous and even result in loss of life.

“For that reason we take it very seriously and our forensic officers are specially trained to investigate these offences. We also analyse the circumstances of all arsons to establish any patterns of offences or similarities between them.”

The news comes after the EADT revealed earlier this month how the number of calls police in Essex receive increased by 27% at Halloween compared with the same day of the previous weeks. The call volume has decreased over time, however, from a peak of 1,607 during Halloween 2010 to 1,484 last year.

The force spokesman added: “Essex Police runs Operation Pumpkin across Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night. Additional resources are sent to areas which have historically shown the greatest increase in anti-social behaviour during this time.

“Previous years have shown no significant rise in anti-social behaviour on Guy Fawkes Night and a drop on the following Saturday.

“We have also engaged with schools prior to half term to educate young people about their behaviour over Halloween and to advise them on keeping themselves safe.”

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