Archive for Friday, November 16, 2012

Psychologist cautions against drawing conclusions in arson cases

November 16, 2012


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Public safety officials say there have been a series of intentionally set fires at apartment complexes in this area of Lawrence since Oct. 19.

Public safety officials have released few details and no updates on a string of suspected arsons in a south-central Lawrence neighborhood since Oct. 19.

But based on some of the basic facts of the recent cases, it’s tempting to draw some conclusions about the suspected arsonist.

However, that’s often the stuff of television profilers, said Joel Dvoskin, a clinical psychologist and fellow of the American Psychological Association.

“These cases do not get solved by profilers,” he said. “They get solved by good old-fashioned police work.”

For instance, one of the common motivations of arsonists is anger. But that doesn’t tell us much.

“If I say you’re looking for someone who’s angry, you’ve just described half the United States,” Dvoskin said.

Even how the fires have been set tells us little, he said. Many of the suspected arsons have involved objects set on fire; certainly not the most sophisticated means of setting a fire.

It could be a younger, unsophisticated person, or just someone hoping to appear that way, he said.

That makes it even more vital for the public to pay attention and assist police with tips.

“If the public sees something that doesn’t appear right, pick up the phone,” he said.

And with more fires, police are armed with more clues.

“If someone does something enough, they’ll get caught,” he said.

Fire officials, after asking for public assistance, have released little information about the cases.

They have said they suspect arson was the cause of fires reported since Oct. 19 in an area from 23rd Street south to 25th Street and from Iowa Street east to Naismith Drive.

The last fire that fit the pattern of the other fires occurred shortly before 4 a.m. Sunday at 1703 W. 24th St. However, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Chief Mark Bradford declined to say whether that fire is included in the recent suspected arson cases.

According to the Douglas County Jail booking log, there have been no arrests for arson in the past week.

An open records request last week for all fire reports in Lawrence since Oct. 19 showed nine fires — plus the Nov. 11 fire — that fit a similar pattern.

According to the fire reports, eight of the nine reported fires were at multi-unit apartment complexes, while one fire occurred in a trash receptacle. On five of the reports, “arson” is indicated.

In several of the cases, fire crews arrived to find materials such as papers on fire in hallways at the apartment complexes. None of the fires caused major damage, and there have not been any reported injuries as a result of the fires.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Lawrence Police Department at 830-7430, or the TIPS hotline at 843-8477.


Catalano 5 years, 5 months ago

But "Criminal Minds" BAU team is composed totally of profilers and they solve cases every week.

And I'm not "angry", either. Which half of the U.S. does that put me in?

Eugehne Normandin 5 years, 5 months ago

how many arsonists cases are solved by psychologists have solved arson cases this year ? p,s. I am in the angry half.

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