Dramatic drop in delibrate fires in Gateshead park

An anti-social behaviour operation taking place in a popular Gateshead park has been hailed a success – after disorder in the area plummeted.

Last month a series of joint patrols were launched in Saltwell Park between Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS), Northumbria Police and Gateshead Council.

That included visible patrols by partners and undercover work by Northumbria Police after continued disorder deterred the local community from visiting the park.

The engagement and enforcement activity was funded by an £100,000 cash injection from the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner’s Violence Reduction Unit.

And now it has been hailed a success after huge reductions in deliberate fire setting and anti-social behaviour over the last seven weeks.

TWFRS confirmed that in the last seven weeks they’ve seen a 25 per cent decrease in incidents of arson in the area of the park compared to the same time last year.

And even more impressive is reductions of up to 83 per cent in the wider area in the lead up to the summer period.

While Northumbria Police confirmed a 38 per cent decrease in antisocial behaviour related incident compared to the same time last year.

Together they have been engaging with the public, speaking about issues in the park and surrounding areas that have been effecting the local community.

Firefighters have been providing safety advice and conducted safe and well home visits when requested by members of the public.

As Operation Axlewood comes to an end in September, senior figures in the emergency services have praised staff and the public for their hard work.

Today (Wednesday) Station Manager for Gateshead Community Fire Station, Martin Farrow, said “We want to thank the public for working with us to create an outdoor space that everyone can enjoy.

“This has been a great opportunity to address the issues we’ve faced recently in the park and to do it together with our blue light partners and the council is a real testament to our commitment to partner working.

“Just because the operation is now coming to an end doesn’t mean that we won’t be out and about in community, and we encourage anyone who is worried about antisocial behaviour or deliberate fire setting to get in touch and report.

“We have also used this as an opportunity to speak to the public about our safe and well visits and how we can keep people safe.”

Praising the results, Neighbourhood Inspector Kevin Ashurst of Northumbria Police said:

“We want our parks and outdoor spaces to be free from disorder and have everyone enjoy them. Thanks to the hard work of all those involved in this operation, we’ve seen a significant reduction in reports and instances of ASB in the area this summer.

“The operation built upon the patrols and activity which was already being carried out in the area, but gave us the opportunity to enhance and increase that work during those busier periods and the results speak for themselves.

“I hope our communities know that we will not tolerate antisocial behaviour and will always seek to take action against anyone found to be involved in it.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “I love the parks we have in our region and one of our finest has to be Saltwell Park, but from time to time a small minority who cause anti-social behaviour spoil it for everyone else.

“People told me they wanted to see more patrols this summer and along with the fire service and the local council we have put this into action.

“More feet on the ground, made possible through funding from my Violence Reduction Unit.

“The heavy presence has clearly paid off too, with really welcome reductions in call-outs to both our emergency services. This is great preventative work from all involved and I hope reports of disorder keep plummeting.”

The operation was part of a range of summer activities funder by PCC Kim McGuinness’ Violence Reduction Unit.

It was one of many projects introduced to reduce serious violence over the summer, and saw a number of projects in action with support from the Community Safety Partnerships in Northumberland and Tyne and Wear.

You can report any information about deliberated fire setting in your area anonymously to the independent charity FireStoppers on 0800 169 5558.

TWFRS recently launched their ‘Lifesaver’ campaign urging people to call them if they know someone who could benefit from a home visit.

To organise a safe and well home visit, call TWFRS’s Prevention team on 0800 0327777 or you can fill in the enquiry form on their website by visiting www.twfire.gov.uk/safety-advice.