A series of arson attacks in West Howe is seriously damaging the local area, says a community officer.
The neighbourhood development officer in West Howe, Martha Searle, said the increasing trend of arson cases, which has seen 25 separate incidents since April 1, is a “serious issue” for the local area. The “pattern of behaviour is incredibly alarming and distressing” for local residents who are often footing the bill for costly damage said Searle.
Spokesperson for Dorset Fire and Rescue Service Emily Cheeseman denied that the incidents represented a serious issue for the local community, but did acknowledge that there had “definitely been a rise of cases.” A spokesperson said Dorset police had increased their presence in the area and were now working closely with community groups to encourage the public to “put their ears to the ground”, in the hope of catching the perpetrators.
But Mrs Searle has doubts about the possible success of increased police patrols as most cases are occurring during the early hours of the morning when there is little police presence.
Local West Howe shopkeeper Paul Donorth said he had recently “heard murmurings” about the cases of arson around the area, but residents often “keep themselves to themselves” for fear of retribution.
The most recent incident took place on the evening of October 21, when a bin shed on Moore Road suffered substantial damage after being set alight deliberately.
Firestation manager at Redhill Park, Dave Graham, emphasised the mindless nature of arson and said that these cases could “tie up” fire crews from dealing with real emergencies. Graham also encouraged parents or carers to contact them if their children “came home smelling of smoke or showed significant interest in fire.”
Sergeant Andy Edwards of Bournemouth police echoed Graham’s statements by emphasising the dangerous nature of arson, saying “it was fortunate that no-one had been seriously hurt.”
The UK Crime Stats website reports 86 cases of anti-social behaviour in West Howe during August alone, with 21 cases of criminal damage and arson. Despite the negatives, Martha Searle says West Howe is a “well loved community”, which is being damaged by a small minority.