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City sees 60 fewer arsons in '13 than year before



Published: Thu, March 13, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Joe Gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The fire department’s chief investigator says the city’s effort to knock down vacant houses has cut into the number of arsons.

Statistics kept by the department show 112 vacant house fires in 2013, a reduction of 50 from 2012.

Capt. Alvin Ware, who heads up the department’s Fire Investigation Unit, said the city’s effort in recent years to cut down on the housing stock by increasing demolition is the prime reason for the reduction in arsons at vacant houses.

Fire Chief John J. O’Neill Jr. said, however, he is taking a wait-and-see approach because one year of a downturn does not mean there is a trend.

“We’ve had years when we dropped 300 runs and then the next year we made up for it and added two [hundred] more,” O’Neill said. “That’s why I don’t trust that stat.”

O’Neill said the city would need a few years of having arsons consistently drop before seeing any kind of effect on the department’s operations.

“One year’s depression [in calls] doesn’t make it consistent,” O’Neill said.

The city has demolished more than 3,500 homes in the last eight years, according to Vindicator files.

The greatest concentration of vacant-house fires has been on the South Side, Ware said. He said investigators find a lot of gang graffiti at those fires, because often new members will be initiated by setting a house on fire.

Ware said there are far more gang-related arsons on the South Side than in any other part of town.

Statistics from the fire department also show the East Side ranks second in vacant-house arsons, followed by the North Side and the West Side.

The number of arsons of occupied homes also dropped from 26 to nine. Ware said there was no reason he could really point to as to why that number went down except to say that a lot of those types of arsons come from domestic disputes.

He said there were no serial arsonists operating in 2013 as there had been in the past, and he also noted that some houses are set on fire three or four times before they are finally burned to the ground or demolished.

Sometimes, neighbors on different streets have been known to set fire to vacant homes because of the blight they bring to the neighborhood, Ware said.

Ware said arson is a hard crime to prosecute because often it occurs at a time when everyone is asleep. He said he tries to go to every block-watch meeting he can warn residents to be on the lookout for suspicious activity around vacant houses.

“It helps to get people involved,” Ware said.

Although the number of car fires that are arson stayed about the same in 2012 and 2013, Ware said the number has decreased drastically from previous years. He said this is because electronic anti-theft devices are making it harder to steal cars.

Most of the department’s car arsons involve cars that have been stolen and are often burned after they have been stripped or abandoned, Ware added.


Comments

1mmmBeer(12 comments)posted 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Grammar Police: "fewer" arsons

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2billdog1(1399 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

Ya, what Beer said.

Suggest removal:

3republicanRick(1168 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

Fire department grossly overstaffed, and full of toys for grown men.

Average response time to fire is 3 minutes. Reduce staffing and number of trucks and fire houses and response time rises by only 3 minutes.

The last of the once powerfull unions that suck dry city money are the fire unions.

Cops worth every penny. Firemen not nearly so.

Suggest removal:

4James_S(268 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

Arsons on the downward slide while earthquakes are on the upward?
Which leads to my next question:
Natural earthquakes or man-made earthquakes caused by fracking?

Suggest removal:

5JoeFromHubbard(1069 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

@ James_S :

Natural or man made earth quakes?

It simply depends upon whom you ask.

Suggest removal:

6fd6636(255 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

Lanacek Sounds like sour grapes to me concerning the yfd. How come they wouldn't hire you, cause you seem to know a awful lot about their fire dept. From what I see on the news every morning I turn the TV on their fire dept seems to be fighting another fire. If I lived there, I'd want as many fireman as you can have cause it sure seems like they got a lot of work in the city.You seem to have quite a large boner for these guys!! Now, turn your pager back on and hope you can get a fire in your little burb town.

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