Australia — More than 50 potential arsonists are being tracked by police in the ACT this bushfire season and more than half of the suspected firebugs are aged under 18.
The suspects have all been apprehended over arson-related arrests in the territory over the past three years and the names of those charged have been added to a national database used to investigate deliberately lit fires.
Of the 52 suspected arsonists caught by police, 31 are minors.
Half of the 52,000 bushfires each year are thought to be deliberately lit, and arson is estimated to cost Australia $1.6billion per year, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology.
The suspected arsonists are being tracked using a new tool, the National Arson Notification Capability, which was launched by the Federal Government in October 2011, with the capability provided by CrimTrac.
Red flags are put next to the names of suspected firebugs on police databases around the country, allowing police to search for arsonists living near the start of fires.
It also means police can catch suspected firebugs as they leave the scene of a deliberately lit fire.
Experts say the high rates of juvenile arsonists in the ACT are not surprising, but have warned that repeat underage offenders may be ”falling through the cracks”.
The motivations behind deliberately lighting can often be attributed to deep and complex mental health issues, according to Monash University’s Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science research fellow Troy McEwan.
Dr McEwan said arsonists were often motivated by a desire to be noticed, or by revenge, either against an individual or an organisation, such as a school.
”The most simplistic way to think about it, some people do it out of a sense of revenge, they’re trying to get back at someone, or get back at an organisation, or to obtain revenge out of resentment,” Dr McEwan said.
”For others, it could be much more intrinsic reasons … it’s how they express emotion.
”They’ve learned to use fire as a way of getting attention when they’re feeling distressed, or maybe they’re feeling very bad or sad, and the fire makes them feel better.”