Merseyside's credit-crunched businesses warned: Don't play with fire

Merseyside police and fire chiefs are uniting in a bid to prevent arson-related insurance fraud and warn credit-crunched business people that it is NOT a way out trouble.

Merseyside Police Chief Constable Bernard Hogan-Howe and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service Acting Chief Officer Michael Hagen are launching a specialist team to tackle arsons on commercial properties where the intention is to profit from false insurance claims.

The Flare team is one of the first of its kind in the country and is being run by dedicated officers from both services.

It has been set up to investigate and prevent arson-related insurance fraud in the light of the credit crunch and harder economic times.

Flare will investigate arsons at commercial properties where it is believed that suspects have purposefully set fire to their business to gain financially through fraudulent insurance claims.

The team will work closely with Merseyside businesses and the insurance sector to investigate and prevent this type of crime.

Flare will also work closely with neighbourhood police, the Force's anti-social behaviour Task Force and investigating officers from the fire service to achieve thorough and efficient investigations.

Mr Hogan-Howe said: "I understand that the economic downturn is having an adverse effect on many businesses but arson with the intent of gaining through false insurance claims is not a way out.

"By committing such a reckless act not only will you lose your business, but you could destroy your life and the lives of others.

"We are determined to ensure that people involved in this type of crime realise that they are 'playing with fire' and will be arrested and put before the courts.

"Our officers will investigate in great detail any arson where it is believed to be fraud related and you will be prosecuted."

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service Acting Chief Officer Michael Hagen said: “We know that arson-related fraud often increases in times of recession which adds to the risk to our communities and firefighters as well as costing jobs.

"As a result of our close working relationship with the police and with the co-operation of the business community and insurance industry, we intend to deter anyone from committing arson fraud and vigorously pursue anyone suspected of such an act.”