Partnership Working to Reduce Bonfire/Firework Related Anti-Social Behaviour
By Chris Casey – Scottish Fire & Rescue Service, Local Authority Liaison Officer
Illegal bonfires put others with genuine emergencies at risk, fireworks misuse and bonfires are serious problems and can have a detrimental effect on the safety of those living within our communities.
Unofficial November 5th celebrations in our local communities puts extra pressure on Emergency Services as we experience a spike in the number of deliberate fires and fire related Anti-Social Behaviour across the city.
Unfortunately, the Anti-Social Behaviour can, on occasion, result in attacks on fire crews as we carry out our role of protecting our communities. Following a number of such instances on the evening of November 5th, 2018 partner agencies, through both Multi-agency Tasking & Co-ordinating process (MATAC) and Safe Glasgow Partnership, identified the need for intervention and education through partnership working.
Police Scotland’s Local Problem-Solving Team for the area worked closely with local community leaders and Glasgow City Council’s Education Department to identify individuals believed to be responsible for this anti-social behaviour.
Having identified approx. 10 young people, aged 14 to 16, who had either been charged by the Police for offences or thought likely to have been involved in the past or future, an approach was made to offer them a place on a bespoke Fire Reach course run by The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service on behalf of the Glasgow Community Planning Partnership.
Police Scotland’s Campus Cops proved invaluable throughout this process by providing the link between headteachers and other key partners such as Community Justice Glasgow, Glasgow City Council’s Neighbourhoods and Sustainability (Formally Community Safety Glasgow (CSG)) and The Scottish Burned Children’s Club.
CLICK TO READ MORE ABOUT POLICE SCOTLAND CAMPUS COPS
An approach was also made to the Safe Glasgow Partnership to secure the services of an elected member who would carry out the role of a Champion for the partnership work around Bonfires/Fireworks. Cllr Elaine McSporran was only too happy to assist with this work and immediately volunteered to take on this role.
Having accepted their place on the week-long course, the young people attended Kilbirnie House, The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Community Safety Centre for Glasgow, located at Calton Community Fire Station.
They were put through their paces in various training scenarios including hose running and search and rescue to help build confidence and team work as well as community safety input by qualified Fire Reach instructors.
As part of the bespoke course the students also received input from Police Scotland’s Local Problem-Solving Team on the dangers of anti-social behaviour and where this can lead should they continue to offend.
The focus throughout the course was on promoting community responsibility and pride, identifying how your behaviour impacts on others and building bridges between the young people and those in authority, Police SFRS etc.
This was a very targeted programme for a very specific purpose – none of those involved in the programme offended during fireworks season 2019. In the specific beat area targeted, there was an estimated 83% reduction in firework related calls on Guy Fawkes night.
One of the schools where some of the young people who attended was from told us:
“ [They] were “buzzing” on their return to the school the following week and were acting as peer mentors for other pupils talking to them about their experiences.”
At the end of the week Ben McCabe from The Scottish Burned Children’s Club, who himself was badly burned by a stray firework at a young age, attended to provide the students with, possibly, the hardest hitting of inputs. Ben spoke to the young people about his memories of the night as well as the numerous operations he has underwent to assist in his recovery. He spoke of the challenges he has had to overcome mentally and how this can be helped or hampered by his peers. The young people really engaged with Ben and appeared to take a lot from this particular session.
Cllr McSporran was on hand again to close this course and provide the young people with their certificates for successfully completing the course.
A CrimeStoppers event, led by Police Scotland, was also held within the City and targeted at specific identified areas to encourage the local community to report incidents of anti-social behaviour.
All of this partnership working assisted in reducing attacks on fire crews across the City by 70% on November 5th, 2019 with 0 incidents reported in the area identified the previous year.
In addition to this Firefighters and Police Scotland colleagues offer talks to High Schools across the City on bonfire and firework safety and anti-social behaviour, there has been a good uptake in previous years with around 30 high schools receiving input. This may prove a little more challenging this year given the current restrictions facing us all, however we will continue to look for new and innovative ways to ensure this critical safety messages reaches the target audience.
Area Commander Keith added:
“I would urge any member of the public who sees someone starting an illegal bonfire to contact Crimestoppers. Together we can help each other stay safe this bonfire night”.
Police Scotland’s Chief Inspector Natalie Carr added:
“We want everyone to have a great time on Bonfire Night but it is important to be aware of the dangers in order to avoid remembering this occasion for the wrong reasons. There are lots of organised displays and we would always encourage people to attend one of these and experience the fireworks safely. Misuse of fireworks is extremely dangerous, so please, enjoy the occasion and don’t ruin it for yourself and others. Police Scotland will be working closely with its partners during the run up and on Bonfire night and anyone caught engaging in criminal behaviour will be dealt with accordingly.”
CrimeStoppers can be called anonymously on 0800 555 111 or contacted through their website at www.crimestoppers-uk.org