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Chapter 16


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  • 1. Chapter 16Arson, Bombs and Explosives Hess 16-1
  • 2. Introduction• Arson, the malicious, willful burning of a building or property, is one of the oldest crimes known• Arson is difficult to prove• Police investigators partner with fire investigators to handle these crimes• Fire marshals, who also have law enforcement powers for fire-related incidents, investigate these crimes Hess 16-2
  • 3. Classification of FiresCATEGORIES• Natural• Accidental• Incendiary (arson)• Undetermined origin Hess 16-3
  • 4. Elements of the Crime: ArsonELEMENTS• Willful, malicious burning of a building or property• Of another or of one’s own to defraud• Causing to be burned, or aiding, counseling or procuring such burning Hess 16-4
  • 5. Classification of ArsonAGGRAVATED AND SIMPLE ARSON• Aggravated arson  Intentionally destroying or damaging  Fire or explosives or other infernal device  Imminent danger to life or great bodily harm• Simple arson  Intentional destruction by fire or explosives  Does not create imminent danger to life Hess 16-5
  • 6. Classification of ArsonATTEMPTED ARSON• Intent to set a fire• Some preparation to commit the crimeSETTING NEGLIGENT FIRES• Causing a fire to burn• Causing a fire to get out of control Hess 16-6
  • 7. Classification of ArsonTHE MODEL ARSON LAW• First degree: Burning of dwellings• Second degree: Burning of buildings other than dwellings• Third degree: Burning of other property• Fourth degree: Attempting to burn buildings or property Hess 16-7
  • 8. The ArsonistJUVENILE FIRESETTING• Children are predominant victims• Fireplay versus firesettingMOTIVATION• Revenge most common motive• Insurance fraud Hess 16-8
  • 9. Police and Fire Department CooperationEXPERTISE• Fire department  Detect arson  Determine point of origin  Probable cause• Police department  Investigate arson  Prepare the case for prosecution Hess 16-9
  • 10. Other Sources of Assistance in Investigating ArsonADDITIONAL RESOURCES• Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives• News media• Insurance companies• Arson task forces• Importance of the dispatcher Hess 16-10
  • 11. Special Challenges in InvestigationDIFFICULTIES• Coordinating efforts with fire department and others• Determining whether a crime has been committed• Finding physical evidence• Finding witnesses• Determining whether the victim is a suspect Hess 16-11
  • 12. Responding to the SceneOBSERVATIONS• Presence of victims and witnesses• Vehicles leaving the scene• Flame and smoke conditions• Conditions surrounding the scene• Status of alarms and sprinklers Hess 16-12
  • 13. The Preliminary InvestigationOVERVIEW• Fire department usually receives the initial call• Fire personnel make out the report• Fire department establishes arson• Investigators must verify fire department findings• Understand distinctions for proving crime Hess 16-13
  • 14. The Preliminary InvestigationFIRE TRIANGLE• Arson will present an abnormal amount of Air Fuel Heat Hess 16-14
  • 15. The Preliminary InvestigationARSON INDICATORS• Accelerants• Igniters• Burn indicators• Point of origin• Burning pattern• Appearance of collapsed walls and smoke color Hess 16-15
  • 16. The Preliminary InvestigationSUMMARY OF ARSON INDICATORS• Professionals use various igniters  Magnesium rods, timed charge, acidsPHOTOGRAPHING AND VIDEOTAPING AN ARSON FIRE• In-progress photographs• People at the fire scene Hess 16-16
  • 17. The Preliminary InvestigationPHYSICAL EVIDENCE• Very fragile• Identify accelerants (GF-FID)USING K-9s IN ARSON INVESTIGATIONS• Lab-certified accelerant-detection canine• Accelerants and suspects Hess 16-17
  • 18. The Preliminary InvestigationEVIDENCE ON SUSPECT, AT RESIDENCE OR IN VEHICLE• Unique odors• Insurance documentsOBSERVING UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES• Alterations to area• Providing more air, heat or fuel Hess 16-18
  • 19. The Preliminary InvestigationINTERVIEWING• Who had opportunity• Who benefits from it• Victim’s financial status• Cooperation level• First-in firefighters Hess 16-19
  • 20. Search Warrants and Fire InvestigationsTYPES• Administrative  Government agent needed to search the premises  Determine the fire’s cause and origin• Criminal • Issued on probable cause • Premises yield evidence of a crime• Michigan v. Tyler (1978) Hess 16-20
  • 21. Final Safety and Legal ConsiderationsFINAL TIPS• Obtain consent or a warrant• Turn off utilities• Inspect and ventilate• Bring a partner• Wear proper safety gear• Avoid cross contamination Hess 16-21
  • 22. Investigating Vehicle ArsonDETERMINATIONS• Look for evidence of accelerants• Determine whether the vehicle was insured• Seldom arson if there was no insurance• Intent to defraud Hess 16-22
  • 23. Prosecuting ArsonistsDIFFICULTIES• 90 percent of arsonists go unpunished• Often committed without witnesses• Interagency cooperation required• Circumstantial evidence Hess 16-23
  • 24. Preventing ArsonKEY FACTORS• Abandoned properties• Negative-equity properties• Utilities were shut off• Prior-year fires• Gang locales• Drug hot spots Hess 16-24
  • 25. Investigating Bombings and ExplosionsCLASSES• Juvenile/experimentation• Recovered military ordnance or commercial explosives• Emotionally disturbed persons• Criminal actions• Terrorist or extremist activity Hess 16-25
  • 26. Responding to a Bomb ThreatOVERVIEW• Nonchalant attitude could prove fatal• Do not touch the package• Using K-9s in detecting• Stationary technology  Sniffer• Using robots Hess 16-26
  • 27. Bomb Scene InvestigationOVERVIEW• Special attention to fragments of device• Pay attention to powder at the scene• Determine motive• Determine scene parametersAWARENESS TRAINING AND TEAM APPROACH• Available training programs Hess 16-27
  • 28. Summary• Fires are natural or accidental unless proven otherwise• Special challenges in investigating arson include coordinating efforts• Fire department is responsible for establishing whether arson has occurred• Law enforcement investigators must be able to verify such findings• When investigating vehicle fires, look for evidence of accelerants Hess 16-28