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STOP ATTACKING OUR FIRE CREWS; Anger as Mersey incidents soar to five-year high.

Byline: TOM BELGER & CLAIRE MILLER ECHO Reporters @livechonews

ATTACKS on firefighters are at their highest level in five years on Merseyside, new figures show.

Fire bosses and crew reps have both slammed the "mindless" physical and verbal abuse of staff on the frontline.

Dan Stephens, Merseyside's chief fire officer, said it was "unforgivable" to target emergency services staff who risk their lives in the line of duty.

He said most of the incidents involved groups of young people throwing bricks and other objects at fire crews - sometimes tackling fires they had started.

He called on parents to take responsibility for stopping their children getting involved in antisocial behaviour.

The Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service boss said he struggled to understand the trail of destruction left on Mischief Night in October.

Three fire engines had their windscreens smashed in, putting them temporarily out of use.

Last year saw something thrown at a fire crew around once every month, according to Home Office figures.

The service recorded 17 attacks on serving firefighters overall, including verbal and physical abuse, harassment and aggression.

The figures show attacks are also at their highest in five years across England as a whole. Dan Stephens said: "An attack on any member of the emergency services is outrageous and unforgivable.

"It's completely unacceptable to attack them going about their work. The figures are thankfully low, but there's no excuse.

"We've been subject to attack by children as young as 10. More often than not it's when we are attending small, antisocial fires they may have started themselves."

He added: "What we saw on Mischief Night was mindless. You will get young people engaging in antisocial behaviour they wouldn't do on any other night.

"I don't honestly know what is behind it. But I would call on parents to know where their children are.

"If they are out and getting involved in antisocial behaviour, it's clearly a parental responsibility to stop that."

But he said it was too soon to say if this year's figures marked a growing trend in attacks.

Kevin Hughes, Merseyside brigade secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, told the ECHO the figures could be an underestimate, claiming some verbal abuse went unreported.

He said: "I've been spat at, had things thrown and been called names over the 24 years I've been in the service.

"We are really concerned when our firefighters come under attack. They do a hard enough job as it is, without added risk.

"It seems to be gangs of youths with nothing else to do. There's an economic downturn and that's had an effect - there's youth clubs, parks and libraries closing.

"We do a lot of education ourselves in schools to encourage people not to get involved in antisocial behaviour.

"Some things go unreported if no damage is done, but we've got a reporting system now we didn't have in the past and we recommend members do report everything. 99% of the general public still treat us with great respect."

CAPTION(S):

|Chief Fire Officer Dan Stephens: "It's a parental responsibility"

|Several fire engines had their windscreens smashed on 'Mischief Night'

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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 3, 2017
Words:518
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