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Schenectady Arson Arrests on the Rise
SCHENECTADY - The City of Schenectady is taking aim at arsonists. After a record number of arsons over the past decade, investigators have a new aggressive approach at tracking down fire-starters and getting them thrown behind bars. The department’s arrest rate for arsons is 40%, the national average is just 7%.
We’ve seen recently, just how devastating house fires can be. It’s hard enough to deal with a tragedy when it’s caused accidentally but when it’s set intentionally and lives are lost, it’s almost unbearable. “Because of the age of our structures because of the frequency that we've been experiencing arson fires very recently, we have gained some attention, not exactly the kind of attention we want but we've been very aggressive in perusing those cases,” Schenectady Fire Chief, Michael DellaRocco tells CBS6.
Over the last few years, the department has added investigators and worked with the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on increased training. At every scene, normally before the fire is even out, investigators are starting their work. First looking for a natural cause, an electrical or mechanical issue, “once we eliminate all of those causes... it comes back to one thing and that's human involvement,” says DellaRocco who adds, “the fact is, that evidence always remains.”
Many of the fires are started in abandoned homes. “These buildings are supposed to be secured but they haven’t been and either juveniles or transients or other people occupying the vacant structures for illicit or illegal purposes are involved in the fire…on the plus side, we have a good number of cameras here in Schenectady and people who are up and see things, they report it to us,” DellaRocco says.
It’s a team effort among the community and the Fire and Police Department that has led to some pretty impressive stats. In 2012, more than 100 fires in the City were investigated as arson, 28 adults were arrested and 40 juveniles taken into custody and charged with lighting fires. The conviction rate in 2012 of those arrested for arson was 100%.