CRIME fighters are using a new weapon in the battle against arsonists torching shrubs and grass on fields behind a Sunderland school.
A 3G spy camera has been installed to monitor the goings-on in fields between Silksworth Lane and Gilley Law flats, at the back of Farringdon Community Academy.
It is hoped that the hidden camera, placed on the nearby Stephenson Trail, will catch those responsible after a spate of fires.
Officers from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, and Northumbria Police, have visited the school and talked to every year group, showing a film about, and discussing the consequences of, setting fires deliberately.
Farringdon fire station manager Jeff Wilkinson, said: “Antisocial behaviour fires account for three quarters of all fires we attend and we actually go to more in April than we do in November, which includes Bonfire Night.
“Not only do these fires cause damage to property, the environment and tie up firefighters unnecessarily, they can also cause injuries and deaths.
“It may seem like a bit of fun at the time, but fire is unpredictable and can spread very quickly and endanger lives.
“The fires we have seen in the area have resulted in several areas of grassland and shrubs destroyed by fire, leaving a scar on the landscape and impacting on the environment.
“Whilst these types of fires seem small, in the dry conditions and winds, they can quickly spread. Luckily, so far, no one has become injured.”
Farringdon police neighbourhood inspector Dave Pickett said: “People involved in this behaviour may see it as a prank, but they need to realise it could have dangerous consequences, not to mention the damage it’s causing the area, and the effect it’s having on those living nearby.
“Anyone caught causing such fires will be arrested and could be charged with arson and face a jail sentence.
“Any arrest could also impact on their future career choices. We will be carrying out regular patrols of the area to deter and target those intent on starting these fires and we will take appropriate action against them.
“We will also continue to work with our partner agencies to ensure we make our communities even safer for those living, working and visiting the area.”
Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson added: “These incidents are very worrying and thankfully no one has been hurt so far.
“Reckless arson like this puts the lives of residents at risk, it diverts the precious life-saving resources of the fire and emergency services and puts their lives at risk too.”