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NCJ Number: 201890 Find in a Library
Title: Arson: Exploring Motives and Possible Solutions
Author(s): Richard N. Kocsis
Date Published: August 2002
Page Count: 6
Sponsoring Agency: Australian Institute of Criminology
Canberra ACT, 2601, Australia
Publication Number: ISBN 0-642-24276-3
Sale Source: Australian Institute of Criminology
GPO Box 2944
Canberra ACT, 2601,
Type: Instructional Material; Issue Overview
Format: Document
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: After exploring possible motives for arson, with attention to psychological disorders that may be associated with fire-starting, this paper discusses strategies for countering arson, including public awareness campaigns and fire-safety education for youth.
Abstract: Possible motives for arson are profit, animosity, vandalism, crime concealment, political objectives, and psychopathological factors. Under the profit motive, the arsonist derives some material gain from setting a fire. Some motivational element of anger is believed to underlie a high proportion of all arson crimes. Arson motivated by a vandalism impulse may stem from a mischievous mindset, peer group pressure, boredom, or a mixture of all of the above. Arson may also be motivated by an attempt to conceal a crime by destroying evidence related to a crime committed within the facility being "torched." Arson can also be committed in the pursuit of a political goal, such as extreme and violent protest against the policies of a government or private agency. Empirical examinations of arsonists who have been referred to psychiatric hospitals have generally found that schizophrenia, personality disorders, various forms of mental handicap, substance abuse, and mood disorders are the, most frequent diagnoses. Each of these disorders and the concept of pyromania are briefly discussed. Public awareness campaigns to highlight the extent and cost of arson to the community may assist in encouraging people to be more proactive and alert to possible scenarios of arson. Another countermeasure is to provide specialized training for police in arson and arson investigations. Also, new strategies to assist in the investigation of arson should be explored. One example is the greater use of sniffer dogs to aid in the detection of accelerants used in arson. The continued development of profiling techniques may prove to be useful, particularly in serial arson crimes. Finally, only through rigorous research into the phenomenon of arson can policies and proposed solutions effectively address its causes. 36 references
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Arson; Arson factors; Arson for profit; Arson investigation training; Arsonists; Crime specific countermeasures; Emotional disorders; Motivation; Psychological influences on crime
Note: Australian Institute of Criminology Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, No. 236.
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