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NCJ Number: 48660 Find in a Library
Title: ARSON PUZZLE - CAN THE PIECES BE PUT TOGETHER?
Journal: RECORD  Volume:55  Issue:2  Dated:(MARCH/APRIL 1978)  Pages:3-9
Author(s): ANON
Corporate Author: Factory Mutual Record
United States of America
Date Published: 1978
Page Count: 7
Sponsoring Agency: Factory Mutual Record
Norwood, MA 02062
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: THE ARSON SITUATION ON BOSTON'S SYMPHONY ROAD IS EXAMINED WITH ATTENTION TO WHAT SOME GOVERNMENT AND PRIVATE AGENCIES DID AND HOW THEIR STRUGGLE ILLUMINATES THE ARSON PROBLEM IN THE U.S.
Abstract: BETWEEN 1973 AND 1976 THE GREATER PORTION OF THE DATED, LOW INCOME APARTMENT BUILDINGS ON SYMPHONY ROAD BURNED DOWN; OFFICIALLY, THE FIRES WERE WRITTENOFF TO SMOKING OR OTHER OCCUPANT INITIATED, ACCIDENTS. HOWEVER, THE RESIDENTS OF SYMPHONY ROAD KNEW OR STRONGLY SUSPECTED THAT ARSON WAS THE ROOT CAUSE OF THE CONTINUING DEVASTATION, AND THEY BANDED TOGETHER TO FORM THE SYMPHONY TENANTS ORGANIZING PROJECT (STOP). THIS WAS IN THE FALL OF 1976, AFTER A FIRE CLAIMED THE LIFE OF A 5-YEAR OLD AND SYMPHONY ROAD'S 14TH BUILDING. IN THE MONTHS THAT FOLLOWED, STOP PURSUED ITS OWN VIGOROUS INVESTIGATION OF THE SUSPECT FIRES, CONCENTRATING ON THE INCIDENT INVOLVING 37-41-43 SYMPHONY ROAD. THIS BUILDING HAD BEEN STABLE FOR OVER 35 YEARS, BUT IN THE 3 YEARS PRIOR TO THE FIRE, IT HAD CHANGED HANDS 7 TIMES. MORTGAGES HAD INCREASED FROM $220,000 TO $545,000, WHILE THE ACTUAL WORTH OF THE BUILDING DECREASED AND THE CASHFLOW DROPPED TO ZERO. THEN THERE WERE 3 FIRES IN 2 WEEKS. STOP WAS ABLE TO CONVINCE THE ATTORNEY GENERAL THAT ARSON WAS AN INTEGRAL PART OF A CHAIN OF DECISIONS MADE IN AN EFFORT TO MAINTAIN THE FINANCIAL VIABILITY OF THE PROPERTY. THE INDICTMENT OF A NUMBER OF LANDLORDS AND A CITY FIRE MARSHAL RESULTED FROM STOP'S CONCERN. HOWEVER, THESE INDICTMENTS SHOULD BE VIEWED AS ONLY A SINGLE BATTLE IN A CONTINUING, STUBBORN WAR BECAUSE ARSON IS IN REALITY THE LAST STEP IN A CHAIN OF BOTH SOCIAL AND FINANCIAL EVENTS. FOR MANY LANDLORDS FACED WITH RISING COSTS, DETERIORATING PROPERTY, AND DWINDLING RENTS, ARSON BECOMES THE SOLE RECOURSE IN AVOIDING BANKRUPTCY. NATIONWIDE, IT HAS BEEN ESTIMATED THAT 40 PERCENT OF THE DELIBERATELY SET FIRES ARE ECONOMICALLY MOTIVATED, AND MANY OF THOSE AFFECTED BY THE ARSON PROBLEM BELIEVE THAT GOVERNMENTS DO NOT REGARD ARSON AS A SERIOUS CRIME. ARSON IS YET TO BE INCLUDED IN THE CLASS 1 OR PART 1 CATEGORIES OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION'S UNIFORM CRIME INDEX. HOWEVER, BOTH REGIONALLY AND NATIONALLY, INSURANCE UNDERWRITERS AND STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS ARE MOBILIZING TO COMBAT THE ARSON PROBLEM. MORE COMPREHENSIVE INVESTIGATOR TRAINING AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF A COMPUTERIZED REGISTER OF LOSS CLAIMS ARE SEEN AS KEY FACTORS IN THE WAR ON ARSON. THE REGISTER WOULD ALERT BOTH INVESTIGATORS AND UNDERWRITERS TO RECURRING ELEMENTS IN OFTEN SCATTERED PATTERNS OF FIRE LOSS. PHOTOS ARE PROVIDED. (KBL)
Index Term(s): Arson; Arson factors; Arson investigation training; Community involvement; Computer aided operations; Crime detection; Federal government; Insurance fraud; Local government
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http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=48660

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