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ESSEX’s police commissioner has told the force it should have done more to identify arsonists who torched two caravans on the A130.

Nick Alston spoke out after the force revealed it did not consider it a criminal offence to set fire to the caravans, which contained potentially explosive gas canisters.

The vehicles, which were torched in a layby on the northbound section of the road, between Sadlers Farm and the A127, have caused even more concern as they have still not been moved more than two months after the first incident, on February 16.

They have attracted more flytipping and the second was set ablaze again.

An Essex Police spokesman said that as no owners had come forward to complain, and the location was not felt to pose a safety risk even though the road was closed on February 16, neither arson attack was recorded as a crime.

Mr Alston immediately raised the matter with Essex Police after a resident contacted him.

He said: “I note that Essex Fire and Rescue Service stated it was particularly dangerous to start deliberate fires by a busy road like this.

“On the facts as they are known, these caravan fires appear to involve irresponsible and reckless behaviour, and this needs to be dealt with.

“My inquires of Essex Police have shown there is a surprising complexity around potential offences and responsibility, but my own judgment is that greater efforts should have been made to remove the caravans and identify those responsible.”

When the Echo revealed details of the fires, the second of which happened at 10pm on February 28, Essex County Council and Basildon Council each said the other was responsibile for clearing the site, but that they would work to remove them.

Mr Alston was critical of the caravans still being there.

He said: “I regularly drive along that part of the A130.

“I am disappointed that, certainly as of a couple of days ago, the caravans and the related debris have not been cleared.

“I believe it is important relevant agencies, including Essex Police, work to find a quick solution for removing the caravans and the force considers options for pursuing those responsible.”

Kim Gandy, of Eastwood Road, Rayleigh, who wrote to Mr Alston, said: “The last time I drove past the mess was still not cleaned up. It looked like a whole pile of black sacks had also just been dumped, to add to the rolls of carpet and other junk.

“As it seems the police don’t think arson and criminal damage is an offence any more, perhaps they don’t think fly-tipping is either?”