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Arson Investigation in New Orleans - The Development of a Coordinated Effort

NCJ Number
Date Published
94 pages
This report summarizes the development of a coordinated arson reduction program in New Orleans, and an analysis demonstrates the program's success in increasing prosecutions and convictions.
In 1979, the New Orleans Mayor's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council prepared a report outlining the local arson problem. At the time of the report, the detection, investigation, and case preparation for arson was the sole responsibility of the fire department's arson squad. The report recommended that representatives from the fire and the police departments meet with the district attorney to define the responsibilities of each in addressing the arson problem, as well as to design an arson task force, examine arson information systems, and establish priority areas such as training, additional staff, and equipment. Following this meeting, the report recommended that the arson task force produce a report detailing long-term strategy and oversee the implementation of the strategy. An arson squad composed of police and fire representatives has been formed. Problems have been jointly solved and responsibility shared. The district attorney and his assistants have participated in the squad's work by offering advice and commitment to the effective prosecution of those charged with arson. Insurance agents and arson squad members work together to provide resources for arson investigation, prosecution, and adjudication. An arson hotline has encouraged citizen participation in increasing arson arrests and convictions. In 1983, a larger percentage of fires were referred to the squad for investigation than ever before, and of all confirmed incidents of arson, a larger percentage resulted in arrests. The percentage of 'good' cases brought by the arson squad rises dramatically each year. Arson statistics pertaining to the stages from investigation through incarceration are provided for January 1980-August 1983. Appendixes contain additional arson data and both local and State arson legislation.


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