Are Federal Programs Adequate To Deal with Arson Problems?

Gao ID: PSAD-78-88 April 24, 1978

The research and development of arson detection techniques and equipment, training of arson investigators and prosecutors, and programs and funding for state and local arson investigators and prosecutors were examined as part of an assessment of current federal programs dealing with the detection, investigation, and prosecution of arson offenses.

The National Fire Prevention and Control Administration has emerged as the federal focal point for providing arson intervention programs to states and local communities. A number of plans have been formulated to meet needs in the areas of research into arson detection techniques and equipment and training for arson investigation, detection, and prosecution; however, only one program--a training course for arson investigators--has been developed. Experts have identified and ranked nine arson areas needing federal intervention. Two of the nine areas were: (1) arson detection, investigation, and prosecutor training; and (2) research and development on tools for arson investigations. There is no federal program specifically directed at funding state and local arson investigators and prosecutors. Generally, federal resources devoted to research, training, and funding of state and local investigators are small. The lack of federal commitment for a coordinated and concerted arson detection and prevention effort is due partly to the lack of data on the extent of the problem and a need for a better definition of the roles and responsibilities of various organizations concerned.

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