SUSPECTED arsonists will be monitored round the clock in a crackdown on car fires.

Police have joined forces with firefighters to target arsonists following a spike in vehicle blazes across Bolton.

The month-long campaign is the first of its kind to be carried out in Bolton and comes after figures revealed 90 vehicles were deliberately set alight since last April — a rise on the previous year’s figure of 87.

Officers have written to more than 20 people informing them that they will be under surveillance until they are satisfied they are no longer involved in causing fires.

Ch Insp Carol Martin, for Bolton, said: “There will be a proactive coordinated response between the police and the fire service to make sure we can get on top of this.

“We have written to people who have been involved in deliberate fires, warning them they are now a subject of close attention by us monitoring their movements closely and will take action against them if they undertake any criminal activity.

She added: “The fact we have warned them can be used in court as they have been pre-empted. If these people who have been written do commit crimes we can tell the magistrates or the judge about the letter. This means they might deal with people more stringently.”

The hotspot areas for the fires have been identified as Halliwell, Crompton and Farnworth — but firefighters and police will also be keeping a close watch on other areas.

Ian Bailey, the fire service borough commander, said the vehicle fires over the past year have included 16 in Farnworth, seven from Halliwell and 12 Crompton — amounting to more than a third of the fires in the borough.

Bolton is one of the few areas in Greater Manchester to see an increase in vehicle blazes — Wigan and Stockport have also need a rise.

Mr Bailey said: “We have a bit of a problem here with vehicle fires. I don’t think the campaign is going to solve the issue outright but it’s warning for people who do this type of crime.”

“There has been 90 incidents since April and 56 of them have between 10pm and 5am. People are going out in the cloak of darkness.”

In June last year, two taxis in Halliwell were set alight within minutes of each other.

And back in 2010, police launched an arson investigation in Farnworth after three cars were set alight in just one night.

He said call outs are tying up firefighters for about an hour when they could potentially be on more serious call-outs.

Each call out for the fire service costs more than £2,900.

People can report arson suspects to police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.