Much research has been conducted into motivation for arson. In the array of research papers published on this subject, many motives have been suggested. There is a degree of re-branding or re-classification of the motives in the various research papers; however, a few common themes run through the suggested classifications. The more common motives suggested include revenge, ideology, crime concealment, vandalism, self-glorification, mental illness and, last but not least, financial gain.
In recent years financial gain has become one of the most recurring motivations underpinning the crime. This has been more apparent, but not exclusive to, the commercial sector. To the unscrupulous business person when times are hard and business struggle to maintain adequate cash flow, the temptation to have a fire can become overwhelming.
In some cases a forensic fire investigation will reveal this as an act of desperation and often little planning has gone into it, with the perpetrator believing the fire will cover their misdeeds. However, as the methods used in the detection of arson by fire investigators have become more sophisticated and effective, so have those of the perpetrator. In recent times arsonists have become more skilled in their activities, becoming more devious and forensically aware. There is also a growing trend towards arson for hire where a person experienced in this field can be recruited to start the fire.
In the current financial climate, the use of arson as a means of fraud is becoming more frequent and it is not just the insurance industry that is paying the cost. There can be a considerable social cost resulting from this including disruption to a community, lost jobs and risk to lives as a result of the fire.
Keeping one step ahead of the arsonist is essential in dealing with the increasing trend if victims including the community and the insurance industry are to be protected. The detection of arson as a means of fraud requires the skills and knowledge of a specialised and experienced fire investigator, and a meticulous forensic fire investigation needs to be carried out.
Fraud by means of arson has many facets and not just the burning down of a business. In investigating this particularly challenging crime, fire investigators need to look much deeper and wider than just the cause of the fire. Even an innocent looking fire could be covering up a multitude of sins: you never know what you’re missing until you look.
Unless a detailed in-depth fire investigation is conducted, there is a high likelihood of a perpetrator getting away with not only defrauding the insurance company but also the community, along with putting lives at risk.