Arson: Seeking examples of good practice
Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell, Independent Chairman of the Arson Prevention Forum, and Member of CRJ’s Editorial Advisory Panel, outlines the scale of arson and seeks examples of good practice from the fire and police community specifically related to arrangements in place where suspects can be identified and soft intelligence shared with crime enforcement agencies locally.
(image: 123RF / Desislava Vasileva)
“According to the latest UK Fire Statistics, the number of deliberate primary fires was 21,900 – down by eight per cent from 23,700 in 2012-13 and about 44 per cent of deliberate fires occurred in road vehicles. There was a decline in deliberate fires in all locations except ‘outdoor location’:
“Of the 9,100 deliberate fires in buildings recorded in 2013-14, more than half (55 per cent) occurred in buildings that were not dwellings. Of these 4,900 deliberate fires in other buildings, nearly a third occurred in private garages or garden sheds, green houses or summerhouses.
“However, while deliberate fires, like accidental fires, are decreasing, the cost to the fire service, business and the insurance industry is not. The Association of British Insurers state that their members pay out over £1bn in fire related claims each year and the larger loss fires are in non-domestic buildings.
“As we know, collaboration is key and working together to improve the effectiveness of prevention, protection, investigation and diversion activities will help further reduce the incidence of arson. The Arson Prevention Forum provides a unique platform to bring key agencies together to help focus attention and resources in order to reduce the number, cost and impact of arson.
Lee continued: “The Arson Prevention Forum is now calling for further examples of good practice from fire and rescue services, specifically examples where arrangements are in place to facilitate the sharing of soft intelligence with police colleagues. Often it is relatively straightforward to identify that a fire is deliberate but it is more difficult to link a particular individual with the fire scene.
“DNA analysis and other scientific approaches (such as matching unique chemical composition of a particular type of accelerant with that found on the clothing of an individual), is becoming more prevalent but the very nature of fire means that some evidence will have been destroyed during the fire.
“We are particularly interested in examples where information sharing from discussions between firefighters first on the scene and local parties have led to successful prosecutions.
“We are also keen to see if youth diversion activities can be correlated with a reduced incidence of arson locally, recognising that well over 50 per cent of arson suspects are under the age of 24.
“With continued financial pressure on budgets, focusing more attention on arson prevention and reduction strategies will make communities safer as well as reducing response costs.
“Sharing good practice, information and evaluation is key and the Arson Prevention Forum stands ready to assist coordinate activity across the various agencies with an interest in or responsibility for deliberate fires and arson.”
If you have examples of good practice that you would be willing to share, please contact Lee Howell directly.