POLICE and firefighters in Chester are bracing for an increase in crime over Halloween and Bonfire Night.
Chiefs have vowed to step up patrols and officers have been visiting schools to speak to youngsters about the impact anti-social behaviour and arson attacks can have on communities.
Emergency operators in the county typically receive more than 1,000 calls about crime or anti-social behaviour on both October 31 and November 5, placing huge pressure on resources.
Supt Richard Rees, who is leading on the policing operation, said: “Our officers have been working really hard in the run up to Hallowe’en seeking feedback from our communities on how we police during this busy period.
“We recognise anti-social behaviour and arson can have a significant impact on the victim and to the local community and this is why it is vital that we work extremely hard to keep our communities safe.
“Halloween by nature is a fun time of year. However for some members of the public, it can leave them feeling vulnerable and scared.
“We have been making sure that young people are aware that their actions have consequences, and what may seem like a bit of harmless fun, can have a significant impact on the victim and to the local community.”
Colin Heyes, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s arson reduction manager, said the service had been working hard to reduce the number of deliberate fires over Halloween.
He advised residents to ensure wheelie bins are stored away and rubbish is not left out in the open.
“Fires caused by anti-social behaviour are nuisance fires and can quickly spread out of control,” Mr Heyes said.
“Crews have been out in hotspot areas talking to local residents and educating them on what they can do to reduce the risk of arson, and what safety advice they should follow should they fall victim to this type of crime.”
He also warned parents of the flammable quality of many Halloween costumes and decorations, and advised extra care if lighting candles.
Officers at Cheshire West and Chester Council have also been working closely with police to help reduce antisocial behaviour in communities.
Cllr Karen Shore, cabinet member for the environment, said the council would help the emergency services by removing any unofficial bonfires or fly-tipped material from its land.
She added: “If anyone sees an unofficial bonfire on council land, please report it to our Contact Centre and we’ll remove it as soon as possible.”
Anyone who believes they have been victim a victim of crime or anti-social behaviour over the Halloween period should call the police on 101.
In the event of a fire or serious ongoing crime always dial 999.
See full story in the Chester Leader