Fire safety will be at the heart of a community partnership operation launching in Irthlingborough to tackle arson and anti-social behaviour.
Operation Rebuild will be launched on Monday (June 19) with a 300-household door-knock programme delivering fire and community safety information and advice, kicking off a summer of action aimed at engaging with residents and reducing arson incidents.
In 2015/16 the number of deliberate fires recorded in Irthlingborough by Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) was 23.
In 2016/17 this figure rose to 31.
Vehicle, wheelie bin and discarded rubbish fires are areas of particular concern.
Operation Rebuild is being led by the Arson Task Force, supported by the East Northamptonshire Community Safety Partnership, of which NFRS and East Northamptonshire Council are members.
A sister initiative, Operation Restore, was launched this week on Wellingborough’s Hemmingwell estate.
NFRS Chief Fire Officer Darren Dovey said: “We recorded a substantial increase in deliberate fires in Irthlingborough between March 2016 and March 2017, and this operation will be working hard to reduce this dangerous and criminal problem. “Actions will include surveys by fire crews to identify and report potential fire hazards for removal, which will be followed up by waste teams from East Northamptonshire Council, and educational programmes to deflect potential offenders away from fire-setting.
“A similar operation on the Kingswood estate in Corby in 2015 called Operation Revive saw a 68 per cent reduction in arson and a significant reduction in anti-social behaviour, and we are hopeful that Operation Rebuild will be as successful.”
Home fire safety checks will be offered and Crimestoppers will be promoted as an anonymous reporting channel.
Shaun Johnson, Arson Task Force officer, said: “The Arson Task Force is pleased to be working with our partners in Irthlingborough in the forthcoming months.
“We are eager to get our fire safety message across and would encourage residents to engage with us.
“Identification will be presented by the fire service and partner agencies to ensure the public know who they are talking to.
“We will be happy to check your smoke alarms and arrange to get them replaced if necessary.”
Residents will be able to complete questionnaires to share their suggestions for improvements to the area, and advice will also be given about illegal money lending.
Steven North, leader of East Northamptonshire Council, said: “It’s only by working together that public agencies can put together initiatives like Operation Rebuild.
“By bringing together the expertise of the Arson Task Force and the members of the East Northamptonshire Community Safety Partnership we can assist with all manner of neighbourhood concerns quickly and effectively, pooling skills and resources to be more creative in finding ways to improve safety and quality of life in Irthlingborough.”
The safety information packs being delivered to people have been compiled by members of Teamwork Trust, a charity working with adults with mental health needs, learning and physical disabilities.
Shaun Johnson and NFRS community safety officer Jo Gouldson met Teamwork members to brief them on the pack contents.
Nick Hayton, Business and Fund Development Officer at Teamwork, said: “Our members have thoroughly enjoyed putting the community safety packs together and really appreciated the time taken by the fire officers Shaun and Jo to explain each leaflet and its importance.”
The community engagement calls will be repeated in October 2017 and early 2018, ahead of a progress assessment in March 2018.
Educational theatre programme will also run in ten secondary schools from the autumn, including the feeder schools for Operations Restore and Rebuild’s key areas.
These will address issues including alcohol, gangs and grooming.