Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Arson On the Street of Dreams

Our local and regional public safety and government officials should closely follow the progress of the "Street of Dreams" fire investigations. Read carefully the Seattle Post-Intelligencer article headlined "Fire Destroys 'Street of Dreams' Homes." Readers will note there has been some social controversy in the Maltby-Woodinville area where these fires occurred. The controversy involves developments being built over an aquifer, cluster housing, and disagreements over local governments' efforts to manage growth.

Initial news reports focused on a banner found at one of the crime scenes. The banner suggested the fires might have been set by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a group whose methods have been characterized by the FBI as special interest extremism. However, the same P-I article reported, "FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Dave Gomez said the arsons fit the profile of an ELF attack, but cautioned that anyone could have set the fires and claimed it as an ELF action."

The P-I's story was accompanied by a series of photos of some of the fire scenes. One photo caption included this statement, "Eco-terrorists are suspected of using explosive devises [sic] to destroy or damage several Street of Dreams show homes, which burned in Woodinville on Monday."

Arson can be a very complex crime to investigate. Though motive is not an element of the crime (motive need not be proven to get convictions), it is of interest to investigators. It is often useful to use motivation as the ribbon on the package of physical evidence at trial. Motivation sometimes answers the "why?" question jurors often want to have answered. The Insurance Information Institute's "Topic - Arson" webpage gives a statistical breakdown of the most common motives for arson.

Readers who want to learn more about this complex crime and what motivates people to commit it may want to look at the interFIRE.org website. That site bills itself as, "...the complete resource for fire services, fire insurers, law enforcement and others whose duties involve arson investigation, fire investigation safety and fire scene training."


Blogger tumblewords said...

Interesting reading - crime is complex. The increase in local crime, too, makes me wonder if the gap between the haves and have-nots has increased to a level where many feel victimized and frustrated enough to attack anything that smacks of 'in your face'.

2:11 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...


Thanks for the comment. Based on the 2006 Idaho Crime Report, there was a decrease in property crimes but an increase in drug-related crimes. That's generally been the trend across the country.

Arson is usually financially motivated, most often for insurance. Now that Idaho is catching up with the rest of the country's housing slowdown, I wouldn't be too surprised to see an increase in arson-for-profit crimes.

2:31 PM, March 04, 2008  

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