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Don’t put up with arson

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15 Jul 2013
Fire authorities and police are calling on the community to help stamp out arson by reporting any suspicious behaviour they see in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs.

Fire authorities and police are calling on the community to help stamp out arson by reporting any suspicious behaviour they see in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs.

In a pilot program developed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), two city councils will take part in the initiative, which is designed to boost awareness and reporting of arson and lead to an increase in the number of people apprehended for committing arson.

The community safety campaign is also supported by Crime Stoppers, CFA and Victoria Police.

Maroondah and Knox City Councils will both take part in the program, after research revealed more than a quarter of fires attended by emergency services in recent months were deliberately lit. 

A study of incidents of arson over a three month period, from October to December 2012, has shown:
• Firefighters attended 84 fires in Maroondah, 21 were deemed suspicious – 25%
• Firefighters attended 112 fires in Knox, 32 were deemed suspicious – 28.6% 
• A further 24 suspicious fires (11 in Maroondah and 13 in Knox) were reported to police, but fire services did not attend.

The fires were most commonly lit in parklands or reserves, with hot spots in close proximity to transport hubs and major arterial roads.

This is the first time research of this nature has been conducted, with data on suspiciously lit fires until now been kept in various locations, among the emergency service agencies, local government and insurance agencies.

The program – Don’t Put Up With Arson – will encourage residents to be the eyes and ears on the ground and report suspicious fires to 000, increasing the chances of preventing deliberately lit fires.  If you have information about a suspicious fire, or who lit it, call or report online to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or www.crimestoppers.com.au

This will enable Victoria Police to get a better understanding of the areas at risk so they can focus their efforts on apprehending those responsible.

The two LGAs were chosen because historical data identified Maroondah as a potential hotspot, while Knox offers a unique demographic of population density, proximity to extreme risk fire zones and coverage by both MFB and CFA.

MFB Chief Officer Shane Wright said the program would assist with raising the profile of arson and its impact of the community.

“Deliberately lit fires are a major burden on the Victorian community costing hundreds of thousands of dollars each year and placing unnecessary strain on critical emergency services resources,” Mr Wright said.

“Large or small these fires can have devastating consequences.  

“With the public’s help these incidents can be reduced.”

Victoria Police Acting Assistant Commissioner Graeme Arthur said police would continue to target arsonists and any information the community could offer would go a long way in assisting with investigations.  

“We’ll also be placing a heavy focus on recklessly lit fires, especially around the urban fringe interface within these local areas.

“The community must remain vigilant to their surroundings and report any suspicious behaviour immediately by calling Triple Zero (000),” he said.

Crime Stoppers Victoria CEO Samantha Hunter said for a number of years Crime Stoppers spent each summer campaigning against Bushfire Arson.

“Deliberately lit fires are completely avoidable,” she said.

“The cause damage to property and can endanger lives so we are pleased to join the MFB and Victoria Police in increasing awareness of, and reporting of suspicious activity via Crime Stoppers.”

Maroondah Mayor Councillor Nora Lamont encouraged the community to report any suspicious fires incidents.

“We need to protect our community assets to ensure that they remain for everyone to enjoy well in the future,” Cr Lamont said.

“Unfortunately in 2009 the Maroondah Miners Cottage, which was built in the 1880, was burnt down following an arson attack. This was an important piece of Maroondah history that was destroyed through an act of vandalism and is now lost to future generations.

“The information we collect as part of this campaign will go a long way to helping prevent deliberately lit fires from occurring in the future.”

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