Allen, Douglas H. Serial Arson, Arson Motives.
Abstract: This article discusses the six general motivations of
arson. Profit or fraud is a common motive for arson. Most arsonists justify
their actions to themselves by thinking that insurance companies owe them.
Fire is used to extort money, remove competitors, and organize or disrupt
union activities. To uncover arson motivated by profit, the investigator
must conduct a thorough inspection of the debris. When the claim is submitted
at a later date, the investigator must be able to prove at that time that
the claim is fraudulent.
Revenge is the second most common arson motivator. Revenge is an arson
motive that can be a spontaneous action or carefully preplanned. Investigators
should interview friends, neighbors, employees, and acquaintances to learn
of any problems or conflicts the suspect may have.
Excitement or vanity is another motive for arson. Many individuals seek
attention and like to participate in extinguishing the fire to feel heroic.
Discovering their own fires is extremely amusing to those who fall into
the excitement category. Individuals who discover the fire and seem eager
to participate in extinguishing it should be interviewed as possible suspects.
The vandalism motive is common among juveniles. When this type of arsonist
is apprehended they cannot explain why they did it, except to say, "just
for kicks." Schools are the prime targets of this type of arson and
are usually accompanied by graffiti and other types of destruction.
Many criminals believe that a fire will destroy evidence of other crimes.
However, evidence is left at the fire scene and a trained investigator should
be able to detect it. In cases where the arsonist is trying to cover up
another crime, the arson is usually poorly planned and can be detected easily.
Extremism or terrorism is the last category of arson discussed in this
article. Most perpetrators will make every effort to hide their identity.
However, arsonists who fall into this category will often times leave a
message at the scene identifying the group responsible. This is so their
cause is known as a serious one and to create fear among people.