Firefighters in Portsmouth region issued with body cameras as attacks on crews reach five-year high
Attacks on fire crews across Hampshire have risen to a five-year high, with 14 firefighters attacked last year.
Fire crews have been attacked 42 times since 2014, equalling one attack per 1,000 call-outs, an investigation by the JPIMedia Data Unit has shown.
Gosport Fire Station crews were issued with body cameras last year after a series of attacks, according to Mark Chapman, brigade chair of Hampshire Fire Brigades Union.
He said: ‘Body cameras for all duty officers attending major incidents were rolled out across Hampshire about three years ago.
‘But body cameras were issued to all crew members in Gosport following a series of targeted attacks last year.
‘It’s very disappointing to see a rise in the number of attacks.’
Areas of Portsmouth have become so notorious for attacks on fire crews that firefighters have refused to attend incidents without a police presence on the scene.
Mark, a firefighter of 20 years’ service based at Cosham Fire Station, added: ‘There was an area of Paulsgrove around Meadowsweet Way where we used to have incidents of fire fighters being attacked regularly.
‘We wouldn’t attend unless a police car was there before us.’
Other precautions taken by the fire service include fitting CCTV on all fire engines and doubling the number of crews attending certain incidents such as arson.
Fireworks being thrown at firefighters were increasingly common around Bonfire Night, Mark said.
There were more than 900 attacks on firefighters responding to emergencies across the UK from April 2018 to April 2019, roughly the same number as the year before.
This is despite the introduction of a law in England and Wales last November which doubled the maximum prison terms for assaulting blue light workers from six months to a year.
Rhondda MP Chris Bryant MP, who spearheaded the law, said he feared the justice system was ‘still not taking this seriously enough and the courts have still not taken on board the fact that this law is in place.’ He said: ‘We need a complete zero-tolerance attitude towards any kind of violence towards our emergency workers.
‘Any assault on them is an assault on all of us.’