A series of fires near a parade of South Shields shops could have been started by homeless people trying to keep warm.
Town hall chiefs had the chance to grill police on the issue of blazes near the Nook shops, off Prince Edward Road.
But, speaking at the latest East Shields and Whitburn Community Area Forum meeting, officers have also admitted it could be anti-social behaviour.
PC Krista Campbell said: “All shops are aware of the issues and we’ve paid visits with the council to give advice about how rubbish is stored.
“We’ve had reports that the people setting these fires are homeless, but whether it’s for disorder or to keep them warm, we’re not sure.
“Hopefully if it continues we will catch the culprits.”
Last month (October), Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service issued advice urging the public to bring their bins in as soon as possible after they had been emptied.
This followed a spate of arson attacks in the areas, which included three separate bin fires in the Harton Nook area in just four hours.
Fire service data presented at the meeting showed at least 11 bin or rubbish fires in the council’s Harton ward in October and early November.
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service