A Despicable Criminal
The incendiary, as a class, is the lowest of all criminals, but the most despicable member of this group is the “baby carriage” firebug. The practice of this type—one of whom has recently become active in New York City—is to sneak into the halls of crowded tenement houses—preferably at night— and start fires in baby carriages conveniently stored under stairways in the main halls of the structures. From time to time epidemics of this variety of crime have broken out in large cities. The incendiary usually chooses the hours late at night or in the early morning, when the tenants are apt to be in their deepest slumbers. He generally takes care to see that the baby carriages are well filled with papers or other inflammable materials and sometimes—as in a recent New York case—even saturates them with oil or gasoline. Access to these halls are usually readily obtained by the firebug, either through the fact that the catches on the front doors are often out of order or by means of the back entrance in a court or alley, the latter doors being left open for the convenience of tradespeople for early morning delivery. Then, having gained entrance to the hallway, there is little prospect of interference, and he usually can accomplish his work unmolested. It is an easy matter for him to touch the match and escape undetected.
Such crimes, often apparently objectless, would seem to be the result of a disordered mind. A criminal lunatic of this kind at large is a serious menace to the public, but his apprehension and arrest are a very hard problem, as he is wise enough to work when he will least be suspected or molested, and at varying locations. That such an arsonist should be, when arrested and convicted, incarcerated where he can no longer be a menace to society it is hardly necessary to point out. If the perpetrator is proved sane, the full penalty of the law is none too severe a punishment for such a miscreant; if it be shown that he is a pyromaniac he should be confined in an asylum for the criminal insane and should never he allowed to come out, unless a cure is proved by a hoard of alienists. Such cures are, however, exceedingly rare, and there is always the danger of the subject lapsing again into his favorite aberration. The safest policy is to keep such individuals confined where they will no longer he a menace to their fellows.