Arson attacks on Sunderland estate costing taxpayers £80,000

King George V Play Area
King George V Play Area

Teen yobs are costing tax-payers more than £80,000 and abusing firefighters after plaguing a Sunderland estate.

There has been huge rise in nuisance fires and crime at the King George Playing Fields and surrounding areas of Pennywell in the last four months, frequently caused by youths stealing wheelie bins.

Fire Authority chairman Coun Tom Wright

Fire Authority chairman Coun Tom Wright

Fire crews have also been targeted both verbally and physically while the attending incidents.

There have been 41 calls since July 23 across the St Anne’s ward, most from the area of the park - five more than in the whole of 2015 - of which 12 involved bins, seven more than the whole of last year.

The mayhem is estimated to have cost the taxpayer more than £80,000. Each call costs an estimated £2,000 to public services - not just the fire brigade, but also police, courts and council.

Police put Dispersal Orders in place in an attempt to move the gangs on - and now the teenagers’ parents have been called in to help.

There has been a significant rise in anti-social behaviour incidents including deliberate fires at the playing fields and the surrounding area, and we fully appreciate residents’ concerns.

Keith Carruthers

Officers had CCTV footage of thefts and subsequent arson of wheelie bins from which they were able to identify several of the youths responsible.

Parents were called to Farringdon Fire Station for an education session, highlighting the dangers their children were causing.

Firefighters showed a short DVD about the dangers of anti-social behaviour fires and the fact that they pull crews and fire appliances away from potentially life-and-death situations.

The session was attended by representative from the fire service, police, Gentoo, Sunderland City Council and Head Teachers from both Sandhill View and Academy 360.

King George V Play Area

King George V Play Area

Fire Authority chairman Tom Wright, who is the ward councillor for the King George Park area, also attended.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service Group Manager for Community Safety, Keith Carruthers said: “There has been a significant rise in anti-social behaviour incidents including deliberate fires at the playing fields and the surrounding area, and we fully appreciate residents’ concerns.

“We are working closely with the police, the local authority, schools and parents in the area to address this problem.”

Northumbria Police Neighbourhood Sergeant Phil Baker said: “This type of youth anti-social behaviour is something that is not welcomed in our area and on this occasion we moved quickly to speak to those involved.

“Youngsters may think crime such as setting fire to, or stealing, wheelie bins is harmless but it can cause a lot of distress to vulnerable residents in the area and they could be putting themselves at risk if things got out of hand.

“Being verbally and physically abusive to firefighters responding to calls for service is also not something that will be tolerated and if we receive reports of this we will take immediate action.

“Our officers will continue to work with the fire service, local schools and parents to ensure we can do all we can to stop this kind of offending in our local communities.”