Bid to beat teenage fire starters as light nights arrive

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A CRACKDOWN on bad behaviour by youngsters in South Tyneside has been launched.

The Lighter Nights initiative will again target those who put lives in danger by starting rubbish and grass fires.

The campaign, running between April 2 and 19, will also tackle underage drinking and criminal damage.

The launch coincides with the clocks going forward and the Easter holidays, when anti-social behaviour increases.

Earlier this week, the Gazette reported how arsonists were destroying Boldon Nature Reserve after starting a series of grass fires, putting the lives of residents and wildlife at risk.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service district manager for South Tyneside, Bill Forster, said: “Anti-social behaviour fires accounted for 65 per cent of all fire incidents we attended during April 2014.

“While our crews are attending these fires they are unavailable for more life-threatening incidents, undertake critical training or work to help prevent fires from happening in the first place.”

As part of the campaign, a programme of educational and diversionary activities have been planned for young people.

Coun Tracey Dixon, lead member for area management and community safety at South Tyneside Council, said: “We know the proactive approach taken by the Lighter Nights campaign makes a real difference. Over the past year we have seen a 43 per cent reduction in anti-social fires.”

The initiative is a joint venture between Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, the police, South Tyneside Council and South Tyneside Homes.

South Tyneside Chief Inspector Dave Willett said: “During the lighter evenings I would urge people to consider how their actions impact on others.

“Think about what you’re doing, something like hanging around on the street may seem harmless enough to some people, but to a vulnerable person it can be very intimidating.”

Anyone with information about anti-social behaviour or crime and disorder issues can call police on 101.

To find out about activities on offer, call Alex D’Ambrosie, service manager (Participation and Outdoor Education) on 424 6341.

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