Press clipping: Research
Arson attacks in Lancashire have rocketed over the last 40 years, according to the county's academics.
But the team at Lancaster University also show that convictions have not kept pace with the 40-fold rise.
The study was backed up by the county's fire chiefs who said the rise had led to a multi-million pound bill for council tax payers.
The study shows recorded offences increasing across the country from 1,129 in 1963 to 52,818 in 200/01, but convictions only rising from around 450 to 3,600 in 1984 before tailing off to around 2,000 for each following year.
However, a quarter of the increase was associated with new police recording methods since 1998.
Figures from Lancashire police show recorded arson attacks in the county have risen from 356 between April 1994 to March 1995 to 1,855 between April 2003 and March 2004.
Cases solved rose from 108 to 154.
Preston figures show an overall drop in arson attacks on property from 244 in 2000 to 223 last year although there was a peak in 2001 of 306.
But the numbers of smaller fires have nearly doubled from 480 to 848 over the same period.
County Hall and its insurers have had to fork out nearly £ 4m for fires, not including 800 smaller fires, caused by youths on or near schools, between April 1999 and September last year.
Fire chiefs attended 186 school fires, of which more than 68 per cent were started deliberately, in the same period. John Taylor, of Lancashire Combined Fire Authority, said: The problem is great when you look at it, but the measures we have put in place have stopped it growing to some extent.
We have had some huge fires recently, most notably the fire at Brindle Gregson Lane School, Hoghton, near Preston, which has cost £ 2.1m so far.
Coun Driver said: If these figures are right it is very worrying. The parents of these children are hit by a double whammy, not only the cost of the fires themselves but the lost opportunity of the money being used for other things.
A county council spokesman said: A joint project between ourselves and Lancashire Fire and Rescue is proving to be extremely successful and we have received very positive feedback
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