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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 164303 Find in a Library
Title: Investigating African-American Church Fires
Journal: Police Chief  Volume:63  Issue:11  Dated:(November 1996)  Pages:52-54
Editor(s): C E Higginbotham
Date Published: 1996
Page Count: 3
Type: Issue Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article describes the interagency structure and investigative procedures for the investigation of a series of arsons at African-American churches beginning in January 1995.
Abstract: In June 1996, President Clinton made the investigation of church fires a priority of Federal law enforcement, as he formed the National Church Arson Task Force (NCATF). As part of the strategy, the local U.S. attorney's offices are charged with forming task forces of Federal, State, and local authorities to investigate church fires. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), the FBI, and Department of Justice are all part of the operational law enforcement working group. At each church fire scene, the ATF works closely with State and local police and fire departments to determine the cause and origin of the fire. The FBI responds to determine if there are possible civil rights violations. To provide proper oversight at the headquarters level, ATF has instituted a Major Case Team, composed of experienced special agents, intelligence research specialists, intelligence analysts, inspectors, and Advanced Serial Case Management system specialists, who review reports and communicate with field agents daily in an effort to track and analyze ongoing investigations. As of September 1996, several of the arsons at African-American churches had been solved by arrests, most of them on State arson charges. Each case is subsequently evaluated for Federal prosecution. The list of subjects arrested is as diverse as the crimes themselves. Suspects are Caucasian and African-American, male and female, and adult and juvenile. Four persons arrested had ties to the Ku Klux Klan. Although motives have not been firmly established in many of the cases, those that have been determined are also widely varied, ranging from vandalism, to racism, to financial profit. This article includes a listing of ATF resources used in these arson investigations, as well as a description of the various initiatives that have been mounted.
Main Term(s): Police policies and procedures
Index Term(s): Arson; Arson investigations; Black/African Americans; Hate Crimes; Interagency cooperation; Religion
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