Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Jeffrey P. Prestemon; David Butry; Maria L. Chas-Amil; Julia M. Touza
    Date: 2018
    Source: In: Viegas, Domingos Xavieer (ed.), Advances in Forest Fire Research 2018, Chapter 6 – Socio Economic Issues. University of Coimbra, Portugal. P. 1125-1129
    Publication Series: Book Chapter
    Station: Southern Research Station
    PDF: View PDF  (629.0 KB)

    Description

    Wildland managers and law enforcement organizations devote significant resources attending to the consequences of illegal firesetting across many parts of the world. Intentional wildfires may be set for reasons of malice, as acts of protest, or as pure vandalism. Incendiary wildfires result in deaths, property, and resource damages that exceed rates found for fires of accidental or natural origin. In fact, there is a great concern with how such fires tend to occur nearer populations and values at risk. Extensive evidence suggests that arsonists were behind many of the deadly wildfires that have occurred in many countries, particularly in 2017 in the United States (California), Chile, Portugal, and Spain (Galicia). Apart from firefighting resources, prevention measures may reduce wildfire occurrence. Prevention measures may include fuel reductions (thinnings, fuel breaks, prescribed fire). Research has also shown that education programs and information campaigns, fire investigations, surveillance efforts, as well as law enforcement efforts could reduce unwanted ignitions. Studies of the effects of law enforcement or other wildfire prevention measures have shown that these interventions can reduce wildland arson occurrence overall. Based on Becker’s economic theory of crime, law enforcement affects crime in a direct way, through fines and incarceration, and in an indirect way, through deterrence. Criminologist have also recognized the possibility that efforts by law enforcement intended to reduce crime in one time or place or of one type could lead to displacement of crime in a variety of ways (temporal, spatial, target, tactical, and offense), but some research has shown that the opposite could happen—diffusion. In the spatial sense, one kind of diffusion is where law enforcement efforts in one defined location lead to reduced crime across many neighboring locations. The objective of this paper is to describe our efforts to analyze the effect of law enforcement measures —namely, arrests for intentional firesetting— on intentionally-set illegal wildfires. We have conducted two studies (Prestemon et al. 2012, forthcoming) showing evidence for Galicia (NW of Spain). Firstly, we investigated, the effect of an arrest for intentional firesetting on future intentional wildfires in the same location and in neighboring locations. Secondly, we evaluated whether arrests have displacement or diffusion effects, as they may increase or decrease intentional wildfires in nearby locations or later periods, due to both a risk-perception adjusting effect and an incapacitation effect. Therefore, by relating intentional wildfire occurrence to arrest of suspected firesetters, we identify a likely principal mechanism for achieving law-enforcement success. Additionally, we separately quantify the effects of an arrest on agriculturally-based versus non-agriculturally-based intentional firesetting, leaving open the prospect that these two subcategories have different behavioral responses to law enforcement actions and other variables. Such differences could be key to the design of effective policing strategies in response to firesetting in the region.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to pubrequest@fs.fed.us to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

    Citation

    Prestemon, Jeffrey P.; Butry, David.; Chas-Amil, Maria L.; Touza, Julia M. 2018. Effects of law enforcement efforts on intentional wildfires. In: Viegas, Domingos Xavieer (ed.), Advances in Forest Fire Research 2018, Chapter 6 – Socio Economic Issues. University of Coimbra, Portugal. P. 1125-1129

    Cited

    Google Scholar

    Keywords

    arson, arrest, crime, Galica, incendiary, Spain

    Related Search


    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page
https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/59262