Authority, Activities, and Plans of Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Regarding "Arson for Profit" Crimes

Gao ID: GGD-78-47 April 5, 1978

The authority, activities, and plans of federal law enforcement agencies regarding arson-related crime were reviewed. Arson is not generally a federal crime, and, in general, the federal government will investigate and prosecute arson only if a federal law is violated in conjunction with the arson crime. The federal government has not considered arson-related crimes an enforcement priority; the government does not have a unified, coordinated program specifically designed to prevent, detect, investigate, and prosecute these crimes. Four federal law enforcement agencies--the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Department of the Treasury's Internal Revenue Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and the U.S. Postal Service--investigate arson-related crimes. Coordination among these agencies is limited, usually informal, and on a case-by-case basis. The consensus of these law enforcement agencies was that there was no evidence that arson-related crime is a serious national problem or that a greater federal effort is warranted. Federal law enforcement agencies involved with arson-related crimes do not collect data which would demonstrate the severity of the arson problem and are not in a position to delineate their previous efforts or to identify the actions needed to cope with the arson issue. The Attorney General should take the lead in developing information needed to assess the seriousness of the arson problem and, based on the results, develop an appropriate federal law enforcement strategy.

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