Arson shock

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FEWER than two per cent of arson attacks in Wigan result in an arrest, shocking statistics reveal.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service reveal that during the financial year 2010 to 2011, arsonists struck 1,609 times, resulting in 16 injuries.

But only 14 offenders were charged and appeared at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court. Of these 14, six were charged with arson, four were before the courts for arson with intent to endanger life and four were for recklessly endangering life.

The most frequent target was loose rubbish, with 536 attacks in 2010/11 and 436 the previous financial year.

Other common sources for deliberate fires were wheelie bins, with 225 incidents in 2010/11 and 200 offences in 2009/10; scrubland, with 153 attacks in 2010/11 and 175 the previous period; grassland, which saw 180 fires in 2010/11 and 145 in 2009/10.

The number of car fires has gone down, from 154 in 2009/10 to 76 last financial year.

And the frequency of arson attacks on residential properties has fallen, with 63 incidents in 2009/10 and 51 in 2010/11.

A total of 97 non-residential buildings were targeted in 2009/10, with 92 attacks last year, while 17 sheds were destroyed in 2010/11, compared with 16 the previous period.

Supt Andrea Jones, from GMP’s Wigan Division, said: “Tackling arson is one of our top priorities and we work very closely with the fire service to identify those responsible.

“I’d urge anybody with information about arson to contact the police on 0161 872 50 50 or call Firestoppers confidentially on 0800 923 9999.”

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said: “Arson is one of the biggest problems the Fire Service faces; especially small rubbish fires or anti-social incidents. These place an enormous drain on our resources.

“Working with Youth Offending Teams, schools and community organisations, we highlight the impact that such incidents have on the community, the number of people they put at risk and, of course, the danger to those who start them. We treat every case of arson very seriously and offer our strong support to any subsequent prosecution.”