An operation has been launched to tackle anti-social behaviour in Sunderland after fireworks were hurled at firefighters and police officers last Bonfire Night.
Launched today, the week-long operation, called Operation Extinguish, will run in Southwick by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Northumbria Police, Sunderland City Council and housing provider Gentoo.
Since April last year, crews have attended 349 deliberate fires in the Southwick and Redhill area - making it the highest in the Tyne and Wear.
Grant Brotherton, head of prevention and education for the fire and rescue service, said: “Not only do deliberate fires present huge risks to the perpetrators, cause damage to local properties and the environment, they also present a challenge to us. If we are attending deliberate fires, we are unavailable to attend other fires or emergencies.
“Parents can’t always know where there children are, but they can talk to them about the risks – risks that could leave them scarred for life or end up with a criminal record. Deliberately starting fires can quickly turn into something very serious.”
Operational crews from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service will be targeting local businesses to provide information on arson prevention and the importance of reporting fly-tipping to the local council.
Neighbourhood inspector Don Wade said: "This initiative has come about as a result of issues we had in Southwick and Redhill wards last year in particular where fireworks were being aimed deliberately at police officers, fire crews and unfortunately at some home addresses.
"That led to a wide ranging investigation which resulted in 17 people being arrested for a variety of offences.
"We want to prevent the small minority who are ruining it for everybody else.
"We know that people like to enjoy fireworks they like to enjoy Bonfire Night but there is a small minority who go out and try to spoil it for everyone else."
Inspector Wade added: "Enjoy fireworks, enjoy Bonfire Night responsibly. Don't engage with in crime and anti-social behaviour with them because if you do then you are liable to arrest and prosecution.
"Some people ended up serving custodial sentences last year as a result of that so think twice before you're going to engage in that type of behaviour."
Safety messages will also be shared with parents through schools as well as our Prevention and Education Teams holding special assemblies to talk about the impact of anti-social behaviour within schools.
Sunderland City Council have produced a leaflet on household refuse and the facts occupiers need to know on refuse disposal and collection.
Coun Michael Mordey, deputy leader of Sunderland City Council and chairman of the Safer Sunderland Partnership, said: “Using a combination of education and enforcement we can get those messages across, and work with our community partners and residents to do everything we can to help prevent anti-social behaviour and the fly-tipping that can lead to deliberate fires and arson.
“If we all work together to report any problems and help identify those responsible, we can hopefully deter anyone from committing criminal acts.”
Ward councillor for Southwick and Deputy Portfolio Holder for Health and Social Care, Cllr Kelly Chequer added: “We need to warn people in our community to be more careful with disposing of their household and commercial refuse, and also about what might happen if they aren’t with people potentially setting it on fire.”
Coun Barry Curran, chairman of Fire Authority, said: “As a ward councillor and Chair of the Fire Authority I’m pleased to see this partnership working in place to try to provide education and advice to try to tackle these issues with anti-social behaviour in the area. I wish the operation every success.”
TWFRS outreach Vehicle will act as the “hub” and will be located at five different locations during the week and at the central location of Southwick Green the weekend before Bonfire night.
Susie Thompson, director (neighbourhoods) Gentoo Group said: “Anti-social behaviour is unacceptable and we want our customers to feel safe in their own neighbourhoods, especially during the darker nights."
Adding: "We will be carrying out street checks, encouraging residents to report if they see any rubbish for illegal bonfires and arranging extra collections in the run up to the Bonfire period.”