Campaign launched to help put out arson incidents

A HARD-hitting campaign to target the number of young people deliberately starting fires has been launched by the police.

The campaign, Connor’s Story, tells the story of a fictional teenager who alongside his friends, sets fire to the contents of a wheelie bin which explodes in his face leaving him with severe facial burns.

The campaign, which is a joint initiative with South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (SYFR), will run until the end of the year with a focus on reducing the amount of arson incidents involving young people.

South Yorkshire Police dealt with 681 incidents of arson in 2014 – a 17 per cent reduction on the previous year (799 crimes in 2013).

Analysis of arson related incidents over the last year (August 2014 - June 2015) showed that 80 per cent of offenders were male, mostly aged between 11 and 16.

Police and the fire service will also be using the hashtag #ConnorsStory to promote the campaign on Twitter and other social media channels.

Hundreds of stickers will also be placed on wheelie bins across the county as a reminder for people to only take their bins out on the morning of a collection.

This follows a large proportion of fires that have started after residents left their bins out overnight for a collection the following morning.

Supt Colin McFarlane, South Yorkshire Police’s lead officer on anti-social behaviour, said: “The aim of this campaign is to make young people and their parents sit up and realise the very real consequences associated with incidents of arson.

“I make no apology for the graphic nature of the image we are using to promote the campaign as setting fire to someone’s bin may be seen by some as not much more than a prank but this type of anti-social behaviour can have fatal and life altering consequences.

“I would hate to think that this type of thing could happen to anyone’s child and I would urge parents to continue to speak to their children about the absolute dangers of playing with fire.”  

SYFR head of community safety Kevin Ronan, said: “Three quarters of all the fires we attend are started deliberately, which is a massive drain on our resources.

“Starting fires is reckless and costs lives, as even small fires like bin and rubbish fires can quickly spread, take fire engines away from more serious incidents and put you and the people you love in real danger.”