Firefighters were once respected and admired, and prank calls were the biggest nuisance they faced. Unfortunately, violent attacks on fire crews are rising dramatically, particularly in Bradford, West Yorkshire.
Recent figures show that firefighters reported nearly 90 attacks, compared to 60 in the year before, with at least six out of ten involving random missiles being deliberately thrown at crews. Such incidents escalate in the period around Bonfire Night, when fireworks are easily available, increasing the danger and injuries officers suffer.
While some attacks seem spontaneous, others appear to be planned, with the offenders luring fire officers to the area with a false alarm for the express purpose of causing them harm. In an attempt to reduce the number of attacks, the possibility of issuing active fire brigade personnel with a body worn camera is one of the items on the agenda for senior fire chiefs in the region.
In January the ‘Attacks on Firefighters Working Group’ was formed to specifically address this escalating problem. Led by Martin Speed, District Commander for Bradford, the group is looking at various ways to deal with the attacks, of which a body worn camera is one. Other strategies on the table involve strengthening relationships with local communities, considering options to use some level of force against perpetrators and exploring possible powers of arrest.
Ideally, this move would trigger a triple-P strategy of preventing (the attacks), protecting (the firefighter) and prosecuting (through hard evidence) those guilty. However, success is not guaranteed. Union officials have concerns they could make crews even more of a target and point out that current cab-based cameras have never been used successfully in a prosecution, largely because those responsible tend to attack from a distance.
Last year the Metropolitan Police Force began using body worn cameras sourced from companies such as https://www.pinnacleresponse.com/ who specialize in this field. So far the results have been promising, both reducing crime in general and in prosecutions. However, as their work involves closer contact with potential and actual troublemakers, the chance to capture images is much greater.
The potential for technology to help firefighters tackle the risk of attack is not known, but it is a positive move towards preventing the extra dangers crews face daily and punishing those responsible.