Juvenile Firesetters

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Juvenile Firesetters
John Fogelsanger
Incendiary Fire Analysis and Investigation
August 31, 2010
Don West

Throughout the United States, there is an increasing problem with juveniles starting fires, and several communities have started intervention policies to help combat this problem. The Federal Bureau of Investigations has reported the crime that is committed by juveniles under the age of eighteen is arson, since 1996, approximately half of all the arson arrests were juveniles under the age of eighteen. Per author, G. Scott Burlin a questionnaire was presented to 20 juvenile male fire setters at the Cornell Abraxas Youth Fire Setter Program in South Mountain, Pennsylvania. This facility has the capability of having 36 juveniles to reside there for treatment for their severe history of setting fires. The information collected from this questionnaire shows that some of the juveniles started setting fires at the early age of one. When the juveniles were asked when they started setting fires 11 of the 20 stated that they started before they were 10 years old proving that this criminal behavior starts early in life. Numerous youths admitted to setting over 500 fires. They explained that anger was the reason they gave, for this type of juvenile behavior. They also answer that they came from a single parent family. In my research there has been a constant four different categories of juvenile firesetters identified. “The four categories are curiosity firesetter, crisis firesetter, juvenile delinquent firesetter, and pathological or mentally disturbed firesetter. These juveniles can be further classified as little risk, some risk or definite risk for future fire setting behaviors (Burlin 2007)”. The best way society can intervene and discriminate the behavior that has been known to be deadly is in the ability of society to identify this behavior.

There are numerous reasons that juveniles set fires. Society has the challenging duty to take care of these kids. In most of the cases, the child will be sent to a juvenile detention, while others only need to be educated in fire safety. Some people may view juvenile arson as a crime against property, but most investigators believe that it is a violent crime against people and needs to be addressed.

According G. Scott Burlin the author of An examination of Juvenile Firesetting and the Reasons Kids Set Fires, that in 2002 children intentionally set over 68,000 fires, resulting in 630 deaths and 2030 fire injuries.

A large number of young juveniles continue to start fires long after they have been convicted of their first arson charge in the juvenile court system, and even into their adulthood. Because of these cases involving fire, the communities believe that the problem should be handled by the fire departments. The reason most juvenile firesetters continue to set fires is that they are motivated by complex psychological dynamics; society often considers juvenile firesetting an issue that mental health professionals are needed to handle the problem. Because it is a crime of arson, most people believe that the police or law enforcement agencies need to be involved with the problem. Because the problem of arson is a complex problem, Fire Departments, Law enforcement, and licensed mental health professionals should all be involved and working together, Another solution that was discussed in the research was that the parents need to be responsible and held accountable by society for the actions of their children. (Zipper & Wilcox, 2005).

Early identification of juveniles that are at risk of becoming a juvenile fire setter is the first step in the elimination of the problem. However early identification cannot be completed until they can understand the issues that causes a child to start setting fires, and this understanding is also the best way that these kids can be treated and rehabilitated.

In an article for Psychology Today in...
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