Arson Becoming A More Personal Crime

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Spite-revenge arsonists are on the rise in Minnesota, says the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. They’re usually jilted lovers or disgruntled employees, often first-time offenders, who decide to use arson as payback or retribution for a real or perceived slight.

That appears to describe the 21-year-old Gaylord, Minn., woman charged this week with deliberately setting fire to a door manufacturing plant where she worked, causing more than $2 million in damage. A criminal complaint says the suspect was angry with her former employer.

The incident, as well as a recent string of arsons from one corner of the state to another, underscores the vast spectrum of motives behind one of the more destructive and unsolvable of violent crimes. Arson is the second-leading cause of residential fires in the United States, destroying more than 100,000 buildings and causing more than $2 billion in losses annually. The general profile of the arsonist is less that of a bent-nose thug than an angry soul with a lighter and an ax to grind.

“Historically and in the popular media, arson has mostly been looked upon as a crime for profit – you know, the failing businessman who torches the place for insurance so he can retire to Florida,” said Ken Kuntz of the U.S. Fire Administration. “But the face of arson is changing somewhat. These acts now seem more personal in nature.”


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