25 Feb 2014

Many young arsonists go on to more serious crime - study

10:30 pm on 25 February 2014

The Fire Service says it and other major government agencies need to work better together if they are to stop young arsonists from committing serious crimes later in life.

A study by Auckland University researchers of 1790 arsonists under 17 in New Zealand has found 45% of them go on to commit crimes such as murder, assault and burglary.

Associate professor in Clinical Psychology Ian Lambie says many of the programmes aimed at those children are focused on fire safety - when other, bigger issues are at the heart of the problem.

He wants agencies to realise young people who deliberately set fires also need help from mental health and special education services.

The Fire Service's arson specialist, Peter Wilding, agrees with the study's recommendations that co-ordinated, sustained and earlier intervention is needed from agencies such as Child, Youth and Family, police and his service.

"It's really a major flag to all agencies to really get over ourselves, stop using things like privacy as an excuse and get in there and coordinate our attention on these kids who need support."

Statistics New Zealand figures show that during 2012 almost three-quarters of those arrested for property damage by fire or explosion were under 21.