You ever hear that old joke about two landlords?
Tom and Mike were old friends and landlords who met on street corner. Tom asks Mike, how's business. Mike stares at him blankly.
Well, that warehouse I owned downtown burned to the ground last week, he says. Tom, being the concerned friend that he is, empathizes with him.
That's terrible! he says.
It turned out okay. I had insurance, says Mike.
The next week, the two meet up again on the same corner. This time, Mike asks how things are going.
Well, last week a giant flood completely destroyed that strip mall I owned across town, Tom says.
How did you arrange a flood?
The joke may be funny, but arson isn't. Back in November, three cars were set ablaze and a fourth was damaged in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, an area populated heavily with Orthodox Jews. On park benches and a nearby van it appeared someone scribbled graffiti resembling swastikas and KKK symbols.
On Nov. 11, 2011, Mayor Bloomberg released a statement condemning the alleged hate crimes.
New York City is home to more than 8 million of the most open and tolerant people in the world. But even here, there are occasional incidents involving actions that are hateful or vicious or both. The NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force is actively investigating the twisted person or people who attacked cars, benches, and a sidewalk on a block of Ocean Parkway early this morning.
It was believed that this was a deliberate effort to cause trouble in this Jewish area and it was considered a hate crime. Local politicians immediately condemned the act. However, police have recently come out with a theory that this may not be a hate crime, but an insurance scam.
Officials found several Corona bottles near the scene. After testing for fingerprints, they discovered the bottles were wiped clean, suggesting the work of someone meticulous, not someone lashing out in hate, officials said according to the Daily News. Another indicator was that one of the torched cars did not belong to someone who lived in the neighborhood.
Fake hate-crimes are exactly what they sound like. They occur individuals torch their own property or stage a burglary in order to collect on insurance. They can vandalize their own property to make it look as if it is they have been attacked for religious or ethnic reasons.
How do law enforcement officials investigate arson?
In general, the first thing we want to do is to determine where the origin is, says Ron Hopkins. Hopkins was a fire investigator for many years and currently runs his own fire-consulting firm called TRACE Fire Protection and Safety Consultants. Once we determine where the origin is, then we can determine the cause. After that, the arson investigation begins.
Investigating fires can be a difficult process. It takes knowledge and hands-on experience to determine exactly where and how a fire began. Fire investigators have typical tools of the trade. Some of them can be bought in a hardware store including shovels, brooms, rakes and even plows, said Hopkins.
The fires in Brooklyn were clearly intentionally set. No one is debating that.
I have gotten in on several instances whenI have determined that it was intentionally set, said Hopkins. However, in order to determine who caused a fire, investigators must first determine the ignition source and types of materials invovled. This helps them with their evidence and narrow down suspects
Let's say, if you find that, for example, it started in the back, then there has to be an ignition source, Hopkins said. What were our ignition sequence and ignition factors? All through this process, fire investigators are carefully collecting and documenting data.
Then we use a lab to do forensic analysis, said Hopkins. It's where fire investigators determine what caused the fire from their samples. If I took a sample in the back seat of the car and it came up as gasoline, ok, how did the gasoline get there? From there an investigator can start putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Did it happen as a result of a leak, an accident, or because of the fire? Or, notes the consultant, is it because someone put it there?