Initiative to stamp out arson

By NICOLA PHILLIPS

CLARENCE Valley fire brigade captains say a new State Government initiative to deter adolescents from arson-related crimes was a step in the right direction.

The Minister for Juvenile Justice, Tony Kelly, announced an initiative yesterday he said would involve conferences aimed at bringing the juvenile offender and his or her family together with the victim to help the young person take responsibility for their actions.

Mr Kelly said the the young offender, the victim(s) and firefighters at the conference would agree to a plan, which could involve creating a fire escape plan for their own home.

It is also expected a NSW firefighter will attend the conferences.

Yamba Fire Brigade captain Allan Brooks said the initiative was a good idea.

"If it saves a life or even someone's property then it's worthwhile," he said.

"Over the last six months we have had increasing problems with small grass fires being deliberately lit by juveniles.

"Even though the police have talked to them, it seems their hands are tied. Everything they say to the kids is going over their heads."

South Grafton Station commander Dennis Pye agreed.

"I see it as an enormous step forward, it certainly won't do any harm," he said.

Mr Pye said there had been problems in Grafton with bins being lit, although he was adamant they were isolated incidents.

Mr Kelly said a young person who had participated in a youth justice conference had realised the impact of their actions and was now far less likely to re-offend.

"Arson and other fire-related offences have a devastating effect on families and business owners and who better than an experienced firefighter to reinforce the serious consequences of the offenders' behaviour," Mr Kelly said.

Bureau of Crime statistics showed there was a 15-20 per cent reduction of re-offending after these conferences.



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