A CRACKDOWN on mindless arsonists has seen the crime slashed by 40 per cent over the summer months.
The Mail joined forces with firefighters, police and council officers to launch a Stamp it Out campaign after it was revealed the crime costs taxpayers millions of pounds and puts lives in danger.
And fire and police chiefs say the warm-weather operations “far exceeded all targets” with just 45 offences recorded between July 1 and September 10 in Hartlepool.
Firefighters had been called to 75 deliberate blazes during the same period the year before.
And there was also a 56 per cent cut in the number of arson attacks that affected property, from 16 to seven incidents, while fires that endangered lives fell from four to only one – a 75 per cent drop.
Dave Turton, Hartlepool District Manager at Cleveland Fire Brigade, said: “This is an excellent example of partners coming together to help tackle an issue that has a real effect on both the people and the environment in our town.
“The significant reductions in the number of fires, means less misery for our residents, and less time and money wasted dealing with the effects of this crime.”
The campaign came after it was revealed that arsonists were responsible for around three quarters of all fire-related incidents in 2010-11, with an estimated cost of £14m to the local economy.
Fire and police chiefs say the summer months often see the number of deliberate fires soar as children are off school and people are more likely to head outdoors.
On top of the campaign in the Mail, the brigade, police and council carried out school visits, patrolled arson hotspots, organised summer holiday activities for youngsters, removed rubbish that could be set alight and targeted known firelighters.
Superintendent Glenn Gudgeon, Hartlepool District Commander, said: “We thank the public of Hartlepool for supporting all our efforts to deal with this serious issue.
“Our message remains the same: that we will not tolerate arson in Hartlepool, and we will continue to work with our partners to bring the small minority of people who set deliberate fires to justice.”
Denise Ogden, assistant director (neighbourhood services) at Hartlepool Borough Council, added: “The Stamp it Out campaign demonstrates how partnership working can bring about a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour, which benefits everyone, especially the residents of Hartlepool.”
Anyone with information on suspected arsonists can call Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555111.