Anti-social behaviour awareness week is all about highlighting how we are helping to make communities safer – and the Arson Task Force is doing just that here in Northamptonshire.
Set up in 2004, the Arson Task Force (ATF) is a joint partnership between Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service and Northamptonshire Police.
“Our aim is to reduce instances of arson and deliberate fires in Northamptonshire, which contributes to anti-social behaviour in our communities,” explains ATF co-ordinator Andy Evans, of Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service.
The Arson Task Force has four key objectives: prevention, education, investigation and detection. Prevention is the ATF’s top focus – deliberately started fires have a significant impact on communities and can lead to local areas going into disrepair, which is why doing everything possible to stop deliberate fires being set in a dangerous or even criminal away is so important.
Through the Fire Setter programme, the ATF engage with young people who start fires and commit offences of arson. The engagement will often involve schools, social services, parents or guardians and a variety of other interested agencies.
Andy Evans said: “We try and educate young people about the impact of their choices, and to stop early signs of fire setting escalating to arson. At times people may not understand the dangers of what they are doing, or that it could have a massive impact on their future life and job prospects.”
Other areas of concern include void and vacant buildings. The ATF works with partners to ensure better management of void and derelict buildings. Responsible people and landowners are contacted and advised of their obligations under the law.
Andy adds: “It is the owner’s responsibility to ensure that their buildings are safe. Void buildings are a problem and something of a honey pot for anti-social behaviour, because they can act as a playground for young people, but they can also be targeted by drug users and street drinkers. So, a large part is educating owners to be aware of their responsibilities to keep their building safe and secure, and the impact it can have if they don’t adhere to those responsibilities.”
The ATF is a long-standing partnership between Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service and Northamptonshire Police, and soon to join Andy is Kelly Crockett from Northamptonshire Police.
Laura Jones, Prevention Manager at Northamptonshire Police, added: “The formation of the Arson Task Force and the continued working partnership is an important one for the county. It allows the two services to understand each other’s data and information and risks posed across arson and deliberate fire setting. It enables the services to jointly help protect both people and property by problem solving and preventing future incidents.”
The ATF also deals with instances of domestic abuse where there are risks and threats of arson, supporting victims in fire safety.
The team also works with partners to combat fly-tipping, knowing that dumped materials often provide the fuel for opportunistic arsonists.
You can access referral forms for the Fire Setter programme here if you suspect that a young person you know may be involved in starting fire.