City of Austin Performance Report 2014-15

Percent of Arson Cases Cleared by Arrest

Measure Description
This measure shows the Austin Fire Department’s success in clearing arson cases by arrest. This measure was created to accurately determine fire causes to prevent the loss of life and property. Arson is the willful, malicious, intentional and/or reckless burning of property. The Investigations Division identifies and prosecutes individuals involved in fire-related criminal activity. Through extensive analysis, Arson Investigators determine if a fire is an arson case.
Calculation Method
Austin Fire Department (AFD) Arson Investigators determine whether a fire incident was set intentionally (arson incident), establish who started the fire (the suspect), and seek to arrest the suspect. This measure is calculated by determining the number of arson fire incidents with arrests divided by the total number of arson cases within the City of Austin.
FY 2014-15 Results
During FY 2014-15, AFD cleared 39 percent of arson cases by arrest, which fell 1% short of the 40% target. The target was increased from 35% to 40% in FY 2014-15.
Assessment of Results
In FY 2014-15, there were 126 arson fires, down 46% from a high of 232 arson fires in FY 2010-11. Due to the arrest of a serial arsonist in 2013, multiple cases were cleared in FY 2012-13 and FY 2013-14, resulting in a high percentage of arson cases cleared by arrest. The Austin Fire Department consistently exceeds the national percentage of arson cases cleared by arrest, which ranges from 18 to 21 percent.
 According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, juveniles accounted for about 46% of arson arrests nationally from 2005 to 2010. In FY 2014-15, AFD identified 35 juvenile firesetters, but completed assessments on 15, which is a 64% decrease compared to the 42 juvenile assessments completed in FY 2013-14. This decrease was attributed to changing personnel.
Picture of Arson Investigator and K-9 unit.
Next Steps
AFD continues to collaborate with Municipal Judges in Juvenile Court and the Austin Police Department to reduce the reoccurrence of firesetters under age 18. This program provides education and counseling to juveniles who have previously set fires in order to reduce the likelihood of another occurrence. In FY 2015-16 the Arson Division has filled the vacated position and anticipates completing 85 juvenile firesetter assessments. AFD also anticipates maintaining a higher arson case clearance rate than the national benchmark, with 40% of cases cleared.
Contact Information
For more information, contact Chris Swenson, Division Chief, (512) 974-0311.