This is a wise decision. In the USA, crimes against people have a clearance rate of about 60%. Crimes against property are about 20%. It is far easier to get away with arson than homicide.
There are now many arsons occurring in Europe. The great thing is that the perpetrators are getting away with it, which allows them to learn from their experience and to get better.
In this article, I will briefly cover steps in arson investigation, as if I were a fire marshal.
0) So the call comes in that a structure in on fire. The fire department comes, and they put it out. They form a perimeter and begin the inquiry.
1) Investigators search for the point of origin. This will be the lowest point with the most damage. They will use a scent dog or sniffer machine to determine if an accelerant was used. Most commonly this is gasoline. It will be obvious if the cause of the fire was arson or accidental.
2) Next, they will look around for point of entry/exit, look for any burglary tools left behind, footprints, gas containers, and so one. They will canvass the neighborhood for witnesses and take statements.
3) After the scene is processed, the police start thinking about suspects. Who called in the fire? Who saw it first? Was this a hate crime? Was the suspect in the crowd watching the fire? Will he re-visit the scene?
4) Now police will “shake the tree.” If hate crime was suspected, the police will track down and question all known racists in the vicinity for alibi and motive. They also have CCTV, credit card statements, cell phone records, and computer data available.
5) If…the perpetrator is suspected, he will probably be caught. That’s just a reality today. Even fire leaves some evidence. The only way to truly get away with it is to stay off the suspect list entirely and to always work alone.
There are textbooks available in this area. I have tried to make this as simple as possible. Arson investigation is a highly scientific area; so little evidence is left that the small details become highly important.
Sometimes scent dogs can be used. In a few cases, the dog can track the accelerant from the fire right to the suspect’s door. That typically occurs when the suspect walks to the scene.
Gasoline is the favorite accelerant of the amateur. Often, he burns himself in the process. Cops may call nearby hospitals and ask if there were any new burn victims in the last 24 hours.
Videos are available too. The question is not if the information is out there, but will the right people read it?