Glasgow firebugs strike 10 times a week

IT's still Glasgow's burning issue.

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Crews are dealing with 10 deliberately started fires a week in Glasgow
Crews are dealing with 10 deliberately started fires a week in Glasgow

But fireraising isn't quite the problem it used to be.

The number of blazes started deliberately has fallen by more than a quarter over the last six years.

New police figures show there were 558 cases of wilful fireraising recorded in the city in 2011-12, down from 769 in 2006-2007 and from 634 in 2010-11.

The statistics, crunched from raw force data for the Evening Times Crime on Your Street series, underline a general trend of falling crime against property.

But they also represent a huge boost for firefighters, who frequently risk their lives putting out blazes that have been started deliberately.

However, there is still an average of 10 deliberately started fires a week in the city of Glasgow.

Strathclyde Fire and Rescue (SFR) has focused on reducing offending in recent years with major campaigns to wean potential young firebugs away from flames.

Fireraising figures however, have now fallen as quickly as those for vandalism, which have fallen some 40% since 2006, the year The Evening Times began Crime on Your Streets.

Police today stressed their increasingly tight relationship with firefighters to make further cuts in the figures and insisted they were not complacent.

Superintendent Graham Clarke, from the force's Safer Communities team, said: "We work closely with Strathclyde Fire and Rescue to help keep people safe.

"For some time now we have had an officer seconded to the Fire Service in support of their demand reduction policy, examining priority areas such as wilful fireraising and attacks on firefighters.

"We are encouraged by the reduction in the number of fires being started deliberately. However we are not complacent, and will continue to work in partnership to drive down further those figures."

Lewis Ramsay, Assistant Chief Officer for SFR, also highlighted the close working relationship with Strathclyde Police and other groups in cutting wilful fireraising.

As reported in the Evening Times last year, secondary fires – in bins, skips and bonfires – cost £3million each year to tackle.

But the police and SFR are working to find ways to tackle the issue.

Officers highlight problem areas and put community wardens in place to help stop trouble before it starts.

SFR also points to its Fire Reach campaign as having a positive effect by working with school-age youngsters.

Started in 2003, children and teenagers spend between one day and one week at their local fire station training as if they were fire fighters.

The aim is to show the life-saving work of fire crews and how criminal acts – like wilful fireraising and attacks on crews – can put lives at risk.

Mr Ramsay said: "Of course we welcome any figures that show the number of deliberate fires are falling. This is down to increased levels of cooperative work with the police, Glasgow City Council and GHA, finding ways of tackling deliberate fires.

"Then our Fire Reach courses and our work with the Evening Times' Streets Ahead campaign have a positive effect."

Fireraising, of course, is not just the work of youths.

Organised criminals use fire to cover their tracks, to make false insurance claims or to threaten and intimidate their victims.

Mr Ramsay was also instrumental in setting up the Business Engagement Forum with the Scottish Business Crime Centre.

SFR and others work with businesses to advise how they can keep their properties safe from fire.

Figures for fireraising are also falling outside Glasgow. The total number of cases for the whole Strathclyde force area was 1830 in 2011-12, down from 2053 in 2010-11.

The fireraising figures included the tragic death of three members of the one family in Helensburgh, in July 2011.

Thomas Sharkey, 21, and his eight-year-old sister Bridget died in the fire. Their father Thomas Snr, 55, died days later.

Two men are to go to trial over the blaze as well as several other fireraisings in Helensburgh and Lomond.

WHERE there are vandals, there are firebugs, and Glasgow police beats with a high level of vandalism often also have high levels of fireraising.

Riddrie in the north-east had more cases than any other neighbourhood in Glasgow, 17 in 2011-12, up from 7 in 2010-11 and just three in 2009-10 but exactly the same as in 2006-2007.

Riddrie, as it happens, comes in 16th in an unofficial Evening Times league table of Glasgow's 200 or so police beats for vandalism. Nearby Balornock and Robroyston – alongside Drumchapel East – ranks joint second in the league table of fireraising with 15 cases each.

But it is not all bad news for the crime in the north-east of Glasgow. Barmulloch and Red Road, for example, suffered 17 such incidents in 2006-2007 but just six last year.

Scotstoun East – a particularly busy police beat in the West End – had 14 cases of fireraising, making it the fourth in our table for fireraising. It was third for overall vandalism too.

Beats in Drumchapel, Greater Easterhouse and Greater Pollok all rank highly for vandalism and fireraising.

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