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New Program Helps Put Wayne Co. Arsonists Behind Bars

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DETROIT (WWJ) – The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office says a new program to snuff out arsonists is already paying dividends.

The Wayne Arson Reduction is a public/private partnership that investigates and prosecutes those responsible for insured arson losses.

”Arson cases present complex issues that take time to investigate and charge. As a direct result of our partnership we have been able to convict defendants who are burning down housing, endangering the public and blighting our Wayne County communities,” said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy in a statement.

Investigators say half of all arson cases in Michigan occur in Wayne County.

The public-private effort has yielded two convictions and a confession in a third case. Mona Fawaz and Rosa Watson were found guilty last week in a Dearborn arson, with sentencing set in the coming weeks. Kelly Thornton pleaded guilty in a case in Lincoln Park and will be sentenced next month.

According to Worthy’s office, arson-for-profit, which results when people burn or have someone else burn their residence or business to obtain insurance benefits, is a growing problem in Michigan. In 2010, there were 6,550 arson and suspicious fires reported in Wayne County. That compares to 6,515 in 2009. More than 50 percent of the state’s total arson and suspicious fires occur in Wayne County.

“Arson-for-profit burns everyone,” said Lori Conarton of the Insurance Institute of Michigan, a member of the Michigan Arson Prevention Committee, which sponsors a tip-reward program that rewards up to $5,000 for information that leads to the arrest and/or conviction of arsonists.

Those who have information about an arson crime are urged to call 1-800-44-ARSON (442-7766).

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