CHILDREN as young as 12 have been arrested in a police crackdown following a string of arson attacks.
Eight youths – including two 12-year-old schoolboys – have been arrested as part of a major clampdown on anti-social behaviour and arson in an area of Hartlepool.
Two 12-year-olds and two 15-year-olds, along with a 13, 14, 16 and an 18-year-old, were arrested in connection with a spate of wheelie bin fires in the Owton Manor area of town.
No further action was taken against one of the 12-year-olds and the others have all been released on bail pending further inquiries.
Police say there were not any serious repercussions from these fires, but if this activity is left unchecked, it is a matter of time before something serious or even fatal happens.
The arrests were the result of a clampdown on yobs in the area by Cleveland Police, Hartlepool Borough Council and Cleveland Fire Brigade.
It followed a string of calls, on Saturday, December 6, being made to the emergency services by residents reporting wheelie bins being set alight, and other anti-social behaviour.
Neighbourhood officers have recently made full use of new powers under the Crime and Policing Act to issue dispersal notices to young people in the area.
Four were slapped on unruly youths on Saturday night alone.
Within a day a 15-year-old boy - one of those arrested in connection with the bin fires - had breached the notice so he was arrested on Saturday and charged to Hartlepool Youth Court where he was given a curfew order.
Neighbourhood Sergeant Brian Rooney said: “We take all reports of crime and anti-social behaviour seriously and, with the help of our partners, we will deal robustly with offenders.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to appeal to residents to be vigilant and to try to ensure their wheelie bins are secure.”
He added: “Parents should also notify police if their children come home smelling of smoke and if they suspect they have been involved in setting fires.
“Fortunately, there have not been any serious repercussions from these bin fires but if this activity is left unchecked, it is surely only a matter of time before something serious or even fatal happens.”
He added that extra anti-social behaviour patrols would continue in the area which is not believed to have suffered any further fires over the weekend.
Councillors Allan Barclay, Stephen Akers-Belcher and Marjorie James, the three Manor House ward councillors, are delivering over 1,000 leaflets to homes in parts of the ward to provide residents with advice on wheelie bin fire safety and other fire safety tips.
Coun Barclay said: “As councillors, we are taking a team approach to the problem of bin fires and targeting the worst affected areas with our leaflets.
“We want to make residents aware that there are some simple steps they can take to prevent their bins becoming a target for arsonists.
“Hopefully, this will help to reduce arson attacks involving wheeled bins and lead to improved community safety.”
Andy Hardy, a watch manager at Cleveland Fire Brigade’s Stranton Fire Station in Hartlepool, welcomed the joint campaign, saying: “Clearly, one of the easiest things people can do is to not put their bins out until the morning of collection and then bring them back in as soon as possible after they have been emptied.
“When you do put out your bin keep it away from property to minimise the risk in the event of fire.”