• Raymond Mansi

Arson

The definition of arson is “any willful or malicious burning or attempt to burn, with or without intent to defraud, a dwelling, house, public building, motor vehicle or aircraft, personal property of another, etc.” The news story below from the Ames Tribune shows us an example of an arson that took place in Nevada. An example of what an arson report looks like you can go to the quarterly statics reports on our website (nvcrimemapping.com) and click on UCR Crime Data by Month (pages 48-51).

The definition of arson is “any willful or malicious burning or attempt to burn, with or without intent to defraud, a dwelling, house, public building, motor vehicle or aircraft, personal propety of another, etc.” The news story below from the Ames Tribune shows us an example of an arson that took place in Nevada.




Not every fire is an arson. In this news story it was determined by authorities that the fire was intentionally set. Investigations are done to see how fires are started. If the mobile home in this news story caught fire without the malicous attempt of the owner then it would not be counted as an arson.


Up next we will take a look at the three types of arson and then see what type of arson the one in the news story falls under. The following bullet points are those that would count as being a structural arson.


  • Single occupancy residential (houses, townhouses, duplexes, etc.)

  • Other residential (apartments, tenements, flats, hotels, motels, inns, dormitories, boardinghouses, etc.)

  • Storage (barns, garages, warehouses, etc.)

  • Industrial/manufacturing

  • Other commercial (stores, restaurants, offices, etc.)

  • Community/public (churches, jails, schools, colleges, hospitals, etc.)

  • All other structure (out buildings, monuments, buildings under constructions, etc.


There are two different types of structural arsons: residential and nonresidential. UCR considers residential arsons as “any dwelling used for human habitation, including houses, townhouses, apartments, etc.” The following bullet points are the criteria for single occupancy residential arsons. These arsons would be reported on structural arsons point a. on the arson report.

  • Private dwellings, duplexes, townhouses, etc. each occupied by a single family group.

  • Total sleeping accommodations for no more than 20 persons.

  • No more than two rooms per unit rented to outsiders.

Other residential includes: hotels, motels, inns, etc. The rest of the structural categories are clearly outlined.

The second type of arson we will look at is mobile. What counts as a mobile arson?


  • Motor Vehicles (automobiles, trucks, recreational vehicles, buses, motorcycles, etc.)

  • Other mobile property (trailers, airplanes, boats, etc.)

UCR definition of motor vehicles is “self-propelled and run on land surface and not on rails, for example, sport utility vehicles, automobiles, trucks, buses, motorcycles, motor scooters, all-terrain vehicles, and snowmobiles.”


Example: The owner of an airplane willfully burned it to collect the insurance money. The fire also damaged the plane’s hangar.


Lastly, what counts as other arsons? “All property not classified as structural or mobile. Willful malicious burning of property such as crops, timber, fences, signs, and merchandise stored outside structures are included in this category.”


Example: A 16-year-old boy, whose motive was revenge, burned timber belonging to a local rancher.


We have to be cautious in classifying arsons. In the news example that arson would be categorized as a structural arson. Since the person lived in the mobile home it is counted as a residential. A factor we have to look at is the point of origin. If the arson in the news story spread to cars the arson is still categorized the same since it started at the mobile home. However, if the arson started by the lady setting her car on fire then the arson would be counted as a mobile-motor vehicle. If someone dies as a direct result of the arson then both an arson and homicide report will be made. The last factor we will take a look at is who reports the arson. If an arson starts in Reno, NV and spreads into Sparks, NV Reno would be the agency that reports it since the agency that the arson starts in reports the arson.


There are many factors to look at when classifying and reporting arsons. Agencies have to first establish if a fire was an arson and then dig deeper to see what type of arson it was. In 2017 we saw that there were377 arsons in the state of Nevada. Arsons are a very serious offense that comes with a heavy sentencing. Hopefully we will see a decrease in arsons in 2018.

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This project was supported by Grant No. 15-NCS-X-02 (NIBRS) 2015-R2-CX-K043 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the US Department of Justice.

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If you have questions or need additional information please Email at nocrequest@dps.state.nv.us

Site last updated on:   Decemcber 3,  2019