Fire departments, nationwide, responded to an estimated 20,400 vehicle fires during 2007 - 2011. Of those fires, 7 % were intentionally set resulting in 32 deaths, 67 injuries and $176 million in direct property damage, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
May 4th – 10th is National Arson Awareness Week. This year’s theme is Vehicle Arson -- a combustible crime. Vehicle arson most often occurs in the night between the hours of 9:00 p.m. – 6:00 a.m. The most common motive (41%) of a serial arsonist is revenge; targeting the home of someone whom they perceive has committed an injustice against them. To an arsonist, a vehicle is viewed as an extension of that person and therefore this act becomes a personal target for revenge. There are other common motives for vehicle arson besides revenge, these include, concealing a crime, curiosity, excitement, insurance fraud/arson for profit and vandalism to mention a few.
Arson is a criminal activity that affects an entire community not just a select few. It robs communities of its valuable assets, lives and property. Arson destroys more than buildings; it can devastate a community resulting in the decline of the neighborhood through increased insurance premiums, loss of business revenue, and a decrease in property values. Vehicle arson also poses an increased risk in the lives of responding firefighters from exposure to the deadly mix of fuel and fire.
In an effort to protect property and lives, Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue, in conjunction with U.S. Fire Administration, is seeking the community’s assistance in reducing the occurrence of arson and its devastating effect by providing the public with strategies to combat arson in their neighborhoods. Below are measures that can be implemented to safeguard communities against vehicle arson:
- Park your car in a well-lit area.
- Use a secure parking lot for extended periods.
- Remove the key from the ignition.
- Always lock doors, trunk and tailgate.
- Report abandoned cars to the police.
- Don’t leave valuables in plain sight.
- Use a recovery system, such as GPS or Lojack.