Campaigning by Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service has achieved a dramatic reduction in anti-social behaviour in a Stoke community plagued by teen crime.
Supported by Police and the Local Authority, firefighters have established dedicated patrols and intervention schemes across Norton in the north of the City.
"Behaviour among young people has fundamentally changed thanks to the efforts of the Fire Service, Police and Local Authority."
Ed Case, Watch Manager for Stoke Area Command Risk Reduction Team
Educating young people to the importance of fire safety, the consequence of deliberate and malicious fire setting and the potential danger of fireworks and bonfires, figures released this week reveal the positive influence the Service is having on people.
A total of 14 incidents of anti-social behaviour around bonfires were reported this year. This compares to 60 in 2006, 45 in 2007 and 28 in 2008.
Ed Case, Watch Manager for the Stoke Area Command Risk Reduction team, said implementing new intervention and diversionary activities was necessary following a spate of incidents involving firefighters.
"In the past we have suffered a lot of problems with anti-social behaviour in this part of Stoke, particularly around bonfires," he said.
"When we have have turned up to incidents and faced angry confrontation with groups of teenagers, which can be very intimidating.
"We decided, working in partnership with Police and the Local Authority, we needed to come up with ways to tackle this issue once and for all."
On the back of Operation Good Guy, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s annual campaign to raise awareness of the dangers associated with bonfires and fireworks, firefighters visited three Norton primary schools to speak to pupils about fire safety and the issue of fire setting.
"With the help of the Police and Street Services at Stoke-on-Trent City council, we also organised street games for young people to take part, all themed around our fire safety messages," added Ed.
"The Local Authority also sent letters out to 1,300 homes advising people if they were found guilty of anti-social behaviour their tenancy could be affected. This enforcement approach really worked.
"Norton is the busiest area in Staffordshire for anti-social behaviour and the difference we have seen in people in the wake of our pro-active campaigning is very encouraging."
Inspector Mark Hardern, commander of Tunstall Neighbourhood Policing Unit, which includes Norton, said: "Working with partner agencies to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour is having a positive effect on the communities we serve.
"By engaging young people in positive activity and making them aware of the consequences they face if they cause problems they are less likely to get involved in anti-social behaviour.
"This multi-agency approach is having a positive impact on people’s quality of life and residents are telling us our actions are working.
"Together with Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and Stoke City Council will continue to listen to residents and take action."
Meanwhile, Sharon Harrison, Locality Manager for the Northern Neighbourhood, at Stoke City Council, added: "We did an immense amount of work in the run up to Bonfire Night with Staffordshire Fire Service and that looks to have paid off.
"We warned people about anti social behaviour and how dangerous setting unsupervised and illegal bonfires could be.
"This has produced a reduction both in the number of bonfires and the number of complaints."