Michigan arson hotline gets a second life

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If it weren’t for the intervention of a determined National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) agent and the staff of the Michigan Basic Property Insurance Association (MBPIA), a valuable Michigan arson prevention program would have bitten the dust.

The Michigan Arson Hotline and Rewards Program was run by the Michigan Arson Prevention Committee (MAPC), an agency that provided many services to the state’s fire/police departments, insurance carriers, and the public. But the agency was defunded in 2017 and the hotline ceased to exist. That was unfortunate because the hotline was so successful that from 2014 through 2018, the number of arson-related suspicious claims referred to NICB from Michigan decreased by nearly 50 percent.

During its 30 years of operation the hotline paid out nearly $1 million to confidential informants whose information lead to the arrest and conviction of numerous arsonists, some of whom were involved in very high-profile arson fires within the state.

So, when the hotline was shut down, NICB Supervisory Special Agent Joseph Hanley, working with the Michigan Basic Property Insurance Association (MBPIA), decided to act to revive it. In January, 2018, Hanley and representatives of the MBPIA approached the Detroit Crime Commission (DCC) with a proposal for the DCC to assume the administrative responsibilities of the arson hotline and rewards program. Acknowledging the mutual support and success of the arson hotline, the DCC enthusiastically agreed to the proposal.

Arson is the act of deliberately setting fire to a building, car or other property for fraudulent or malicious purposes and is a crime in all states. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there were 22,500 fires intentionally set in structures in 2017, an increase of 13 percent from 2016. The 2017 structure arson cases resulted in 280 civilian deaths and $582 million in property loss. Additionally, there were an estimated 8,500 intentionally set vehicle fires in 2017, these fires resulted in $75 million in property loss, an increase of 88 percent from 2016.

The I.I.I. has facts about arson here (members only content).