Arson is a crime and as such falls firmly to the Police to investigate and the Crown Prosecution Service to bring offenders before the Courts. There are some great examples of local working which is making a difference in reducing arson. However, there still remains a significant opportunity for the National Police Chiefs Council to provide greater national coordination and/or visibility of this effort from a national perspective.
The attention police place on arson depends on the extent that it is presented locally. In some areas, joint Arson Task Forces are in place, in other areas a multi-agency hub model is presented where Arson will feature from time to time but effort is directed towards areas of greater need. Where there is arson with intent to endanger life is presented, arson is always afforded a high priority by the police. A Cambridge Harm Index is used to weight the extent of investigative effort by many forces.
Community policing teams are a valuable source of intelligence and shared teams are used to drive a prevention agenda. Police forces are increasingly targeting events where a high degree of ASB/ arson is provided such as at Halloween.
In some forces, a silver (tactical force wide) approach is adopted to not only manage events as they arise with additional resources matching to an increase in demand but also diversionary activities are planned in a multi-agency manner by partners to provide alternative activities for those who may otherwise be drawn to ASB/ arson e.g. Street dance festivals or football.
The Ministerial Advisory Group on ASB considers the use of behavioural control orders / community resolution methods and the extent to which these are used rather than a more formal criminal prosecution requires further investigation. It is recognised that Adverse Childhood Experiences will have an impact on ASB / arson.
Whilst in terms of volume, arson is less of a problem for the Police and CPS, it still equates to a significant number of negative events (there is nothing positive about arson).
Whilst it is relatively easy to determine if a fire has been set deliberately, it is more difficult to associate the action with a specific individual. Whilst it is difficult, it is a reasonable expectation on behalf of the public that appropriate time, effort and attention is being directed towards tackling this particular crime.
HMIC have undertaken reviews as to data quality and the approach that Forces adopt to identify and manage risk. It is anticipated that this report will be used by HMIC to inform future Police Efficiency, Effectiveness and Legitimacy (PEEL) inspections and now that HMIC have been confirmed as the Inspectorate for Fire and Rescue Services, an opportunity to assess the extent to which both Emergency Services are working together is presented.
At the same time, Police and Crime Commissioners will want to ensure that the local Police and Crime Plan takes into account the threat, harm and vulnerability associate with arson given that it can be used as a weapon of choice to conceal crime, undertaken fraudulent activity and/or harassment.
It will be important that every police force investigate all arson incidents and where improvements can be made in evidence gathering that these opportunities are taken. It is recognised that investigating arson (evidence is destroyed by fire and water) is difficult but improvements can be made. It will also be important to determine the arrangements in place for the referral of cases to the CPS.