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Combating Arson

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 52 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2004 Pages: 122-124,126
Richard Martin
Date Published
July 2004
4 pages
This article describes the development and implementation of an Arson Task Force (ATF) to target and reduce the crime of arson.
Typically, arson is viewed as a victimless crime and is often pushed to the side by other priorities of law enforcement agencies. However, arson is a serious social and financial problem that could be effectively reduced with strategies used to reduce other types of crimes. The experiences of Winnipeg, Canada and Utica, NY in fighting growing arson problems are described; in both cities, officials launched crime fighting initiatives that targeted the specific problems associated with arson, such as a focus on juveniles in Winnipeg and a focus on drug dealers in Utica. The article next describes the development of an ATF, which should work toward three main goals: (1) improve the detection and investigation of arson; (2) reduce the occurrence of arson; and (3) prevent arson through education and community cohesion. The next step in implementing an ATF is the identification of personnel, which should include an attorney because of the legal paperwork and complexities involved with arson arrests. Code enforcement officers can also help in the ATF efforts by targeting opportunities for arson, such as removing rubbish piles and abandoned vehicles. If law enforcement agencies are willing to target arson using proven enforcement strategies, the heavy cost of arson to the public can be greatly reduced.


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