Police and fire officers have today launched a hard-hitting campaign to target the number of young people deliberately starting fires.
Dubbed ‘Connor’s story’, the campaign tells the fictional story of local teenager, Connor, who, alongside his friends, sets fire to the contents of a wheelie bin which explodes in his face leaving him disfigured with severe facial burns.
The campaign, which is a joint Suth Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service initiative, will run until the end of the year with a focus on reducing the amount of arson incidents involving young people.
Last year, the force dealt with 681 incidents of arson- a 17% reduction on the previous year (2013- 799 crimes).
Analysis of arson related incidents over the last year (August 2014 – June 2015) showed that 80% of offenders were male with most aged between 11- 16 years.
The campaign will also be using the hashtag #ConnorsStory to promote messages 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 take their bin out on the morning of a collection. This follows a large proportion of fires that have been started after bins were set alight after been left out overnight for a collection the following morning.
South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue 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.”
Superintendent 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 a lot of people 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.”