City eyes long-term arson strategy


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The city is hoping what worked against car thieves will work against firebugs.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/06/2013 (3574 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The city is hoping what worked against car thieves will work against firebugs.

Winnipeg’s civic protection and community services committee has decided to create a comprehensive long-term arson-reduction strategy.

Coun. Scott Fielding, the committee’s chairman, said the strategy would pull in representatives from stakeholders — including the police, fire and bylaw-enforcement departments — to co-ordinate initiatives to reduce the number of arsons in the city. The committee will also include Fielding and Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarski) who has been pushing for the city to pick up abandoned bulk waste in alleys.

Fielding said the strategy mimics what police did to reduce the number of auto thefts almost 10 years ago.

“Obviously arson is a big concern for residents,” Fielding said on Thursday.

“A long-term strategy with fire, police and all the stakeholders will help address the arson issue. The auto-theft strategy has had success. Now we can look at people causing arsons.

“We’re confident the police and fire and other stakeholders can make a difference.”

Facing a wave of vehicle thefts, police joined forces with Manitoba Public Insurance and Manitoba Justice in 2005 to create the Winnipeg Auto Theft Suppression Strategy with a goal of reducing thefts by youth.

By 2011, the strategy was credited with reducing auto theft by 86 per cent.

Winnipeg police Supt. Danny Smyth said while the numbers provided to the protection committee show arsons had doubled to 583 in 2012 from 226 in 2007, it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Smyth said 2007 and 2008, with 314, were below-normal years.

“We were getting 400 to 500 arsons each year during the 10 years before 2012,” he told reporters after the committee meeting.

“It smooths out over a larger period.”

Eadie said he’s pleased the committee is supposed to come up with an anti-arson strategy by October.

“Each department works differently, and that’s all right, but there has to be a co-ordinated effort to get rid of these arsons,” he said.

Meanwhile, the protection committee also agreed to a plan to have the city’s garbage contractors do twice-a-week pickups of bulk waste, including mattresses and couches, from arson-prone areas of the city before arsonists set them on fire.

The plan still has to go back to next month’s city council meeting for final approval. It is expected to cost about $60,000 per year, but the city hopes to find that amount in the existing budget.

Smyth said the police department appreciates the city’s move to quickly pick up abandoned bulk waste in alleys twice a week because “bulk waste last year accounted for about 25 per cent of our arson investigations.”

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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