Australian Institute of Criminology

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Arson: exploring motives and possible solutions

Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 236

Richard N Kocsis
ISBN 0 642 24276 3 ISSN 0817-8542
Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, August 2002


This paper provides an introduction to the possible motivational factors behind arson offences, and offers suggestions for tackling the problem. Motives discussed include profit, animosity, vandalism, crime concealment (of an underlying primary crime),political objectives, and psychopathological factors including schizophrenia, personality disorders, mental handicap, substance abuse, mood disorders including depression, and pyromania. The paper also briefly discusses firesetting by young children, examines solutions already proposed to the problem of arson, and makes suggestions for arson prevention. These include public awareness campaigns, educational programs for youngsters operated by fire brigade organisations, psychological screening of recruits to firefighting organisations, greater specialist training in arson investigation for police personnel, new strategies to assist in arson investigation, and more rigorous research into the problem.