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Archive for Wednesday, May 8, 1996

WEEK SPARKS AWARENESS TO ARSON INCREASE

May 8, 1996

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Lawrence is on track to see a record number of arson crimes as the country marks National Arson Awareness week this week.

As residents of a Lawrence apartment complex know, arson is a crime that can strike anywhere, anytime and without warning.

In fact, as firefighters throughout the country mark National Arson Awareness Week this week, Lawrence firefighters are observing the occasion with particular concern.

The city averaged 40 arsons from 1991 to 1995, but firefighters and police this year have investigated 38 arsons, including a fire that reportedly was set intentionally on April 29 in an apartment at 2011 Riverridge Rd.

"We're already at our average, and we're not even halfway through the year," Fire Marshal Rich Barr said.

The annual damage average is $160,000, but total damage so far this year is $130,000, fire investigator Kathy Elkins said. The majority of this year's amount, however, is an estimated $100,000 damage caused in the apartment fire.

"Whenever we have an intentionally set fire, there is danger of injury or death," Barr said.

So far this year, residents and firefighters have been lucky. No one has been seriously injured in the fires. But 12 people in six apartments were displaced in the most recently reported arson.

Barr said that residents can help reduce the number of arsons in two ways.

"One thing that we want people to know is that arson occurs in our community," he said. "It's not something that may be prevalent only in larger communities.

"We also want people to be aware of activity that may be going on prior to a fire," Barr said. "Maybe there's information that they may have that may assist in the investigation."

Barr said fire "could be considered a weapon of mass destruction. Unfortunately, fire is a weapon that is available to everyone."

Health and safety aren't the only concerns about arson.

The crimes cost everyone in terms of higher insurance premiums.

"Obviously, the more money that is paid out for claims, the more our premiums are going to go up," said State Farm Insurance agent Diane Senne.

"It's on the same level of fraud," she said. "Arson usually results in a pretty enormous amount of money paid out."

Arson averages

From 1991 to 1995, the average number of arsons in Lawrence was 33.

Juveniles intentionally started eight more fires.

Since Jan. 1, 30 arsons have been reported.

Juveniles intentionally started eight more fires.

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