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Police and fire service unite to stop attacks on crews in Leeds

Chief Supt Paul Money and senior fire officer Chris Kirby pictured outside Leeds District Police Headquarters.
Chief Supt Paul Money and senior fire officer Chris Kirby pictured outside Leeds District Police Headquarters.

A joint operation between police and the fire service in Leeds is setting out to protect crews in the wake of attacks by youths.

Firefighters from the city were among those pelted with stones and fireworks during six attacks on crews across West Yorkshire on Halloween, with trouble flaring in both Harehills and Hyde Park.

And as Bonfire night approaches, senior officers in both services want to challenge the view that such incidents are just part of the job.

Chris Kirby, an area manager with West Yorkshire Fire Service, said: “Issuing our crews with protective equipment for fires is one thing, but now we have to deal with the fact that at this time of year, they’re facing new risks – bricks, bottles and fireworks thrown at them.”

In a number of cases, crews responding to a wheeled bin set alight in the street or fires in public spaces have been met with groups of youths throwing missiles at them.

“It’s something that our fire crews have almost started to accept,” he said. “They’re entering certain areas where there’s a high likelihood that when there’s a fire in the street, we’re going to encounter trouble.”

What we’re looking for is support from the community in terms of intelligence about who is getting involved.

Chief Superintendent Paul Money, Leeds District commander

In an effort to reduce such attacks in the coming nights, neighbourhood policing teams have been targeting shops and private individuals illegally selling fireworks to young people.

Council teams have been drafted in to clear waste which could be used to start nuisance fires, while police have had their rest days cancelled to bolster numbers out on patrol.

Dedicated teams will also be available to join firefighters where they encounter trouble.

Chief Superintendent Paul Money, of Leeds District Police, said: “What we’re looking for is support from the community in terms of intelligence about who is getting involved. We’d rather engage with these people than have to prosecute them.

“However, if people get involved in this type of activity, they can expect to be held to account for their actions.”

He said the attacks had not been limited to the emergency services though as buses and taxis were also facing the same problems in some parts of the city.

The YEP previously report on how First Bus had been forced to suspended services to Halton Moor for an evening after a number of vehicles were damaged.

Chief Supt Money said: “We’re working closely with the public transport providers now. There’s a planned operation with First Bus.

“Somewhere like Halton Moor, something like 65 per cent of households do not have private transport. The withdrawal of buses in that area has a massive community impact.”

He said work was being done with schools and the local authority to talk to young people about the impact of their actions and organise activities to keep young people off the street.

But again, the force needs the support of parents and the local community if it is to put a stop to the problem.

Chief Supt Money said: “If you want the bus service to work on your estate, you have to accept at some stage that you have to help us to do something about.”

Anyone with information about anti-social behaviour in their area can make an online report here or call police on 101.