Arsonists cost town taxpayers £2m

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ARSON attacks cost taxpayers in Hartlepool more than £2m last year.

The shock figure works out as £22.79 per person in the town for the last 12 months.

The total cost of deliberate blazes across the Cleveland Fire Brigade area was almost £17m.

And Hartlepool saw a huge rise of 11.5 per cent rise in arson attacks from 338 in 2010/11 to 377 in 2011/12.

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Primary fires rose by 22 per cent from 54 to 66 in the same period and secondary fires rose by 9.5 per cent from 284 to 311.

Dave Turton, district manager for Hartlepool, said: “It is disappointing as we work very closely with the police to bring the small number of people who are perpetrating these crimes to justice and we have had some notable successes.

“It is not a victimless crime and it has a cost to the local economy, so we try to do what we can to drive the numbers down.

“If we compare the figures from this year to 10 years ago, then there has been a phenominal drop.”

In one arson attack, firefighters were called after a gas blast ripped through house in Sheriff Street, Hartlepool, during a burglary on August 5 last year.

A court heard Michael Casey, 48, and Luke Gofton, 19, cut through a gas pipe as they tried to steal a boiler from the empty house and gas was ignited after Gofton hunted around in the loft and lit a piece of paper in order to see.

Casey, previously of Baden Street, Hartlepool, admitted burglary and was jailed for 18 months.

Gofton, of Flint Walk, Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to burglary and arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered and was given two and a half years in a youth detention centre.

The new figures come from the brigade’s 2011/12 Performance & Efficiency Report, which also shows there has been a five per cent drop in accidental house fires to 193 across Teesside, which is lowest per 10,000 population in the country.

In Hartlepool, the brigade has also seen the total number of fires fall by eight per cent from 498 to 459 - saving the economy £351,000.

Accidental dwelling fires fell dramatically, from 29 to 15, and saving £350,000.