Tracking arsonists through a database
BATON ROUGE - A new law is reformatting the arson registry database to keep better tabs on firebugs. The arson registry was established in 2010 to track convicted arsonists but some state leaders call it insufficient. State Fire Marshal Deputy, Brant Thompson, said they are reformatting the registry to monitor convicts by making offenders register longer, and allow other law enforcement agencies to have access to it. The new law eliminates fees that were in place that required offenders to register.
The State Fire Marshal's Office says, there are about 3,000 arsons each year in the state. Some are unsolved, but the ones that are don't match up to the number of convicts in the database, proving offenders are not adding their names to the list as required.
"We've had some difficulty in recent years getting the numbers where we expected them," said Thompson. "Some 18 months ago we had more than a dozen on the registry, and today with our efforts we have more than 100 on the registry but we still aren't where we want to be."
Under the law passed four years ago, offenders were responsible to register by the State Fire Marshal, and that wasn't being done.
Right now, work is being done to notify convicts and law enforcement about the law and the need to register.
"Unfortunately, individuals who commit the crime of arson often commit multiple crimes of arson, so its very important to know where these individuals live and when we have a fire in a given location and to be able to access that registry and check up on those people," said Thompson.
Plans are in the works to lengthen the time by five years where those convicted of arson are forced to register, and the office of Probation and Parole will also register convicts now.
The changes will go into effect on August 1st.