08 June 2017
Fire and police

Arson and anti-social behaviour in Wellingborough are set to be targeted by an operation promoting public safety and community confidence.

On Monday, 12 June, Operation Restore will be launched on Wellingborough’s Hemmingwell estate, kicking off a summer of action aimed at engaging with and supporting residents, as well as reducing arson incidents in the area.

Deliberate fires

In 2015/16 the number of deliberate fires recorded in Wellingborough by Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) was 141. In 2016/17 this figure rose to 210. Vehicle and wheelie bin fires are areas of particular concern.

Operation Restore is being led by the Arson Task Force, supported by Wellingborough’s Safer Stronger Neighbourhood Partnership, of which NFRS and the Borough Council of Wellingborough are members.

NFRS Chief Fire Officer Darren Dovey said: “More than 30 partners including the Hemmingwell Residents’ Association and Goodwill Solutions (Hemmingwell Community & Skills Centre) will be supporting NFRS when they visit every household within the Hemmingwell estate to give out community safety information and advice.

“Due to the substantial increase in deliberate fires between March 2016 and March 2017, action will also be taken to reduce incidents of arson on the estate, including surveys by fire crews to identify and report potential fire hazards for removal, which will be followed up by waste teams from Wellingborough NORSE, and educational programmes to deflect potential offenders away from fire-setting.

“A similar operation on the Kingswood estate in Corby in 2015 called Operation Revive saw a 68 per cent reduction in arson and a significant reduction in anti-social behaviour, and we are hopeful that Operation Restore will be as successful.”

Home safety checks

As part of the operation home fire safety checks will also be offered, and crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers will be promoted as an anonymous reporting channel.

Shaun Johnson, Arson Task Force officer, said: “The Arson Task Force is pleased to be working with our partners on the Hemmingwell estate in the forthcoming months. We are eager to get our fire safety message across and would encourage residents to engage with us.

“Identification will be presented by the fire service and partner agencies to ensure the public know who they are talking to. We will be happy to check your smoke alarms and arrange to get them replaced if necessary. We are looking forward to engaging with residents and spreading our community safety messages.”

Questionnaires will also be distributed for residents to share their thoughts on and suggestions for improvements to the estate, and advice will also be given about illegal money lending.

A spokesperson from the Borough Council of Wellingborough said: “We are looking forward to working  with Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, community safety partners and most importantly, the residents of the Hemmingwell over the next nine months, to provide key community safety information. 

“We’ll also be finding out what issues residents may have and devising ways of working together to address them, with the aim of improving safety and quality of life on the estate.”

The safety information packs have been compiled by members of Teamwork Trust, a charity working with adults with mental health needs, learning and physical disabilities. Shaun Johnson of the Arson Task Force and NFRS community safety officer Jo Gouldson met Teamwork members to brief them on the pack contents.

Nick Hayton, Business and Fund Development Officer at Teamwork, said: “Our members have thoroughly enjoyed putting the community safety packs together and really appreciated the time taken by the fire officers Shaun and Jo to explain each leaflet and its importance.”

The community engagement calls will be repeated in October 2017 and early 2018, ahead of a progress assessment in March 2018.

Schools programme

The operation will also see performances of educational theatre programmes in ten secondary schools from the autumn, including the feeder schools for the operation’s key areas. These will address issues including alcohol, gangs and grooming. Fearless, a dedicated youth service run by Crimestoppers, will also be promoted to pupils to encourage the anonymous sharing of information on crime.