Allegheny County Arson Response Team
As the County moves into the 21st Century the current trends of arson in the community will continue to grow. Arson has been used as a tool of terror and financial gain for quite a long time. But as social changes reflect the sophistication with which the arsonist performs his mission so do the needs of an arson/fire marshal unit progress in its methods of investigating these criminal activities. Today arson has become a specialized field of investigation. Not only must investigators be "specialists" in this area, which involves continual training; they also have a need for sensitive operational equipment in order to perform the field tests and analysis of the scenes.
Drug wars continue to impact the community as drug lords deliberately set fires to buildings and accidentally cause fires through the process of refining illegal drugs. The public is also much more aware of the impact of terrorist events such as the recent bombings of government buildings and office complexes, and the setting fires in local churches.
Arson for profit continues to rise, which results in higher insurance premiums for everyone. In 1999 there was over 30 million in fire loss reported which resulted in an average daily loss of reported fire loss to be approximately $15,000.00 each day.
Since March of 1998 Allegheny County has had a fully integrated Fire/Police investigative unit. Prior to that time, the method used in investigating fires had been accomplished with police functioning as an entity independent from the fire personnel. With the formation of the Allegheny County Arson Response Team, ACART, a fire investigator is united with a police detective and a coordinated and skilled team approach is taken to the investigations of fire.
The purpose of the formation of ACART is to utilize the County's resources of joint inter-agency participation. This is accomplished through a team approach, which is directed towards successful and documented cause determination and the resolution of major fires and explosions, which includes the arrest and prosecution of the offender in criminal incidents.
By joining forces through the implementation of ACART, personnel skills are being utilized to conduct the most effective and thorough incident investigation possible. In order to ensure that they apply the latest technological advances to their investigations, these investigators need "state of the art" equipment to perform their examinations. Although the combination of the individual knowledge of the fire investigator with the police detective has increased the dynamics to the investigation, there is still a need and a lack of financial resources to adequately equip these teams with the necessary tools of their trade.