AMID all the violence affecting so many parts of the world, it might seem a tad disproportionate to suggest that, here in Bolton, we have an ongoing problem contributing to the general opinion that law and order is pretty much approaching meltdown.

Last week we had a bus service taken off the route through one of the “troubled” estates because of attacks by gangs of yobs, and the number of incidents involving arson have become too prevelant to be dismissed as low-level crimes, committed by “bored youngsters”.

Apart from the usual spasm of handwringing, and reports in this newspaper that “police are investigating”, nothing, it seems, can halt the inexorable rise in the number of fires deliberately started in different parts of Bolton.

This indicates that we have either a team of mobile arsonists, creating damage and distress across the town and surrounding areas, just for the hell of it, or legions of nutters graduating from the Academy Of Moronic Behaviour with pass marks in how to cause as much trouble as possible with the aid of a lighter and some inflammable liquid.

Whatever their origin, they are unquestionably a serious threat and we must now ask the authorities, what is being done, or, more to the point, what can be done?

The police, hard-pressed and understaffed, would probably tell us that even if their numerous “investigations” produce anything in the way of arrests, the sentences handed down by courts, no doubt restricted by what they can apply, will do little to deter these idiots. And with the cost of dealing with outbreaks of arson running into hundreds of thousands of pounds, I have a suggestion.

There must be a significant number of former military personnel and retired police officers currently living in and around Bolton with time on their hands, looking for something to do other than clean the car, play golf, walk the dog, potter about in the garden, look after the grandchildren, or trawl the supermarket with wife or partner.

They would jump at the chance to get back into action mode, especially if it entailed service for the community.

They could patrol Bolton in unmarked vehicles, armed with whatever they felt necessary to administer enough punishment, Singaporean-style, to anyone they found committing criminal damage, especially arson. It would prove a lot cheaper in the long run, and persuade the idiots causing the damage to radically change their ways, while waiting for the bruises to fade and their limbs to mend.

Failing that, we could always wait to see if Bolton is successful in its hoped-for elevation to city status. We could then have a new coat of arms.

A burning wheelie bin on a red background.