INCENDIARISM THE CARE OF THE STATE.

INCENDIARISM THE CARE OF THE STATE.

The Insurance Herald has the following article: Although at a low estimate the property loss by fires kindled by incendiaries in this country amounts to more than $15,000,000 annually, only five out of forty-five States have effective laws providing for the apprehension and punishment of this class of criminals, and the laws referred to have been in operation only from two to six years. There is no doubt of a gradually growing public sentiment in favor of State fire marshal laws, but the growth is slow and may require a generation to bear satisfactory fruit. We have frequently referred to the efficiency of the Massachusetts law, which in six years has accomplished wonderful things, and the briefer experience with excellent results of Ohio under a similar law, while both North Carolina and Maine have, with less comprehensive systems, demonstrated the value of fire inquests. Formerly nearly all that has been done to discover and punish incendiaries has been done through the offer of rewards for the apprehension by the National Board of Fire Underwriters, which inaugurated the plan in 1873 and which since that time has offered rewards amounting to an aggregate of $1,662,250. A considerable number of convictions have resulted from the offer of these rewards, but they have been few as compared with the numerous cases calling for attention. For the year ending with April 1, 1902, the total rewards offered were nearly $60,000 in the several States. No rewards were offered in Massachusetts and only two or three each in NorthCarolina, Ohio, and Maine, with one in Maryland, though Tennessee called for thirteen; Kentucky for eleven; Georgia for ten; Illinois for eleven, and New York and Pennsylvania for twenty-three each, with more or less in the other States. The pertinent question is, why should the money of the fire underwriters be expended for the apprehension of incendiaries any more than for the apprehension of counterfeiters or of other classes of criminals? It is the duty of the State to apprehend and punish the perpetrators of the crime of arson quite as clearly as the perpetrators of any other crime, and yet State legislators, instead of enacting fire marshal laws to protect property and life, passed valued policy laws, which operate as a direct incentive to incendiarism.

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