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AT ONE time the sight of burntout cars, derelict factories reduced to a charred shell and bins on fire was all too common in the West Midlands.

But now they are few and far between. And that is all thanks to the hard work of the West Midlands Arson Task Force.

Set up by the Government in 2003, this is a partnership between the police and the fire brigade which was given the target of reducing arson by ten per cent by 2010.

Incredibly, the task force did not just meet that target, it smashed it and reduced arson by an incredible 73 per cent.

It did this by initiatives such as making sure abandoned vehicles were towed away to stop them becoming a magnet for the fire bugs, and working with councils to ensure empty buildings were properly boarded up.

Is it too much to hope that one day arson will be a thing of the past? Sadly yes, because there will always be idiots who think it great fun to set fire to a car or a derelict house.

That is why the task force must continue sending firefighters into schools to talk to the culprits - for it is still children and teenagers who are mostly to blame - and make them realise how dangerous and reckless their actions are.

Chief fire officer Vij Randeniya said: "It's our aim to be the best fire service in the world and results like this will certainly lead us there."

We wish him every success.

MENTION Birmingham these days and one word which springs to mind is "balti". The Indian dish has become linked with the city and now boasts more balti restaurants than anywhere else in the UK.

But the humble little meal has found itself embroiled in an unlikely row.

The owner of a posh Indian restaurant has said the proliferation of balti houses has lowered the standards of curries and has turned a unique culinary heritage into a late-night snack favoured by drunks.

How wrong he is.

Baltis have brought millions of visitors to the city and are a cheap and tasty meal - leave them alone.
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jul 19, 2011
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