Workshops target community arsonists
Moose Factory fire chief Chris Alisappi (left) is looking forward to bringing TAPP-C training back to his community.
Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service has launched Project Firefly to address an increase in arson investigations in NAN communities.
The police force has seen numbers of arsons across the north rise from 58 in 2005 to a high of 202 in 2010.
“I think this TAPP-C program would help in that prevention area with the schools,” said Moose Factory Fire Chief Chris Alisappi, one of about 60 fire fighters, police officers and front-line workers who took the two-day TAPP-C training program. “We can take it back to the community and work with the local police and the schools.”
Alisappi said the volume of arson calls in Moose Factory has been decreasing over the past five years, noting that arson activity used to mainly occur in abandoned housing units and sheds and with some grass fires.
“About five years ago we were averaging about 100 to 120 calls and each year it has been decreasing 10 per cent,” Alisappi said. “Part of it has to do with the new structures they are building. They are not abandoning a lot of structures. And some of the youth who have been involved in fire setting have been caught.”
The TAPP-C program is designed for police and other front-line community-based agencies to work together collaboratively to address issues of fire safety and arson prevention.
NAPS held two two-day TAPP-C training workshops from Feb. 4-7 at the Valhalla Inn in Thunder Bay to train police officers, mental health workers, teachers, volunteer fire fighters and youth workers as trainers to work with youth in their home communities. The workshops were funded through an Ontario $100,000 Proceeds of Crime Front-Line Policing Grant.
NAPS Acting Chief of Police Bob Herman said arson not only affects those directly involved in the fire, buts also the community safety aspect.
“In the NAPS communities that we police, we have seen a 300 per cent increase since 2005 to 2011 in the number of arsons,” Herman said. “So anything we can do collaboratively to prevent these from occurring again would be extremely important.”
Herman said the TAPP-C (The Arson Prevention Program for Children) being used in Project Firefly “is tried and proven” for youth from seven to 12 years old.
“Seventy-five per cent of the youth who go through this program don’t re-offend,” Herman said. “So you can imagine when you are looking at a program that is that successful how it can have an impact, not only on the youth themselves but also on the communities.”
Gull Bay Police Service Constable Roland King said the TAPP-C training would be “just great” for his whole community, not just the youth.
“We did have arsons, especially in spring time, kids playing with matches and lighting up grass and it gets out of hand,” King said.
King said the consequences of playing with matches and playing with fire could be devastating.
“What we learn here, we’ll pass it on to the community,” King said.
NAPS conducted 58 arson investigations in 2005, 105 in 2006, 108 in 2007, 131 in 2008, 133 in 2009, 202 in 2010 and 140 in 2011. The number of arson investigations for 2012 is currently at 65.
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