An event aimed at reducing deliberate fires and other anti-social behaviour in Sunderland was held at Southmoor Community School, in Grangetown, February 4. 

About 400 students in years seven and eight took part in Respect, a multi-agency initiative involving Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Northumbria Police, Gentoo, the Youth Offending Service, Nexus, SAFC Foundation, Sunderland City Council and Victim Support. 

The students were able to identify and handle firefighting equipment, as well as take part in quizzes and other activities with anti-social behaviour messages presented by partner organisations.  

In 2008/09, the Sunderland district accounted for 37 per cent of all deliberate fires in the Tyne and Wear area, and although the figure dropped to 36 per cent in 2009/10 and was downn to 34 per cent in the first quarter of 2010/2011, the service is determined to reduce these types of incident even futher.  

Watch Manager Neil Harrison, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, came up with the idea for the event which it is hoped will be extended to other schools in the area. 

Neil said: "One of our main priorities in the Sunderland district is to reduce the number of deliberately started fires, which are a blight on the community and present a risk to public safety. By talking to young people face to face and engaging them in activities outside the usual classroom format, we hope to educate them about the knock-on effects of anti-social behaviour." 

Sunderland District Manager John Allison, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, added: "Whilst our crews are dealing with deliberate fires they are not available to attend other more potentially life threatening incidents such as someone trapped in a house fire or in a road traffic accident. It also puts extra pressure on our fire crews who are already very busy. 

"Starting fires is just one example of anti-social behaviour, and by working with our partners in the area we can pull together to tackle other important issues that affect us all in our daily lives."  

Inspector John Connolly, of Sunderland East Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: "It's important to recognise that not all young people are involved in anti-social behaviour and the majority don't come to the attention of the police. However, when people see groups of youths hanging around on the street it can be intimidating for other members of the community.  

"During the day officers from the neighbourhood policing team spoke to pupils at the school to raise awareness of the consequences of anti-social behaviour, the effect it can have on their future and the effect it has on our communities.  

"Working together with partner agencies and the local community means we can continue to find solutions to the issues that affect our communities the most and make them even better places to live." 

Headteacher at Southmoor Community School, Dr Phil Ingram, said the event had been a great success. He added: "Today has really been a groudbreaking event for Sunderland schools. At Southmoor we want to create responsible, caring adults, and the abilty to bring together so much expertise for the benefit of our pupils has proven absolutely invaluable. We feel that it will change lives."     

The Chairman of the Safer Sunderland Partnership, Councillor Tom Foster, said: "Combining the expertise and resources of community safety partners across the city is a great way to promote messages in our schools, and positive behaviour out of school."  

Youth Offending Service Manager, Julie Firth, said "Sunderland Youth Offending Service works with the very small minority of children and young people in Sunderland who offend.  By working in local communities, including schools, we hope to prevent children and young people from ever reaching our service, ensuring they stay out of trouble and lead crime free lives." 

Gentoo's Anti-social Behaviour Operations Manager, Steve Walton, said: "Tackling anti-social behaviour and supporting its victims is high on Gentoo's agenda. We are committed to ensuring that our communities are safe places to live."  


Date posted: 09.02.11