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APRIL 7-12 2024


The Correlation Between Arson and Violent Crime in America: Case Study and Research

Wednesday, April 10, 2024 (10:20am - 12:00pm) (Celebrity 1-3)

For decades, the public and media have commonly associated arson as a crime primarily motivated by insurance fraud, and in many cities in America, arson investigations are handled as property crimes. To date, there has been limited reliable research to identify the leading motives for arsonists and the areas where most arsons occur. Knowing what motivates arsonists can assist in identifying and prosecuting future arsonists. It may also assist policy makers as they attempt to develop appropriate approaches toward combatting overall crime. This presentation will detail the results of a multi-city research project conducted by ATF where the motives of arrested or charged arsonists were derived directly from investigative reports. The research ultimately showed that the six currently recognized motives for arson may not be sufficient to capture why many arsons are being committed today. Additionally, this study’s results revealed an apparent significant correlation between arsons and areas where gun crimes are committed. More specifically, the review of the investigative reports highlighted that arson in American cities appeared more closely associated with violent crime than property crimes, and that the “arson for profit” motive was not a driving force for most arsons.


Rick Hankins

Rick Hankins has a BA in Criminal Justice and has been employed by ATF since 2001. Agent Hankins became an ATF Certified Fire Investigator (CFI) in 2009 and an IAAI CFI in 2011. Agent Hankins has been an instructor regarding fire-related topics on dozens of occasions, to include the following: The National Fire Academy (FEMA), Wisconsin IAAI, Waukesha County Technical College, Alaska IAAI, as well as police and fire departments. Specifically, Agent Hankins was a full-time instructor at the ATF National Academy from August 2015 – August 2016, where he taught new ATF agents the skills to investigate the crime of arson. Agent Hankins is also a member of the ATF National and International Response Teams, and travels to assist large fire and explosion investigations.

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