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Fire, police chiefs propose certification for arson investigator

By By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Jan. 27, 2001
With 22 arsons reported in Meridian in 2000, Police Chief Gregg Lewis said he applauds a recent proposal to certify a fire investigator as a law enforcement officer a move that will ease the burden of arson investigations on his detectives.
The certification would enhance the Meridian Police Department's Arson Task Force, and relieve the load on other officers already working a high number of active cases, by giving a fire investigator arrest powers, he said.
Meridian Fire Chief Bunky Partridge announced on Wednesday he would seek law enforcement certification for Fire Investigator Vince Vincent, who was appointed to the Arson Task Force on Monday.
Vincent is also the handler of Schroeder, a dog trained to sniff out more than 1,000 accelerants used to start fires.
Lewis said he has contacted the state's Board of Minimum Standards and Training for guidance in obtaining that certification. The next step will be for Lewis and Partridge to write and submit a formal proposal to the city's administration for approval, he said.
According to the Uniform Crime Report for 2000, 15 of the reported arsons in 2000 were committed before Oct. 1, with at least six of the remaining seven arsons suspected to be related, Lewis said.
Of the 22 arsons reported in 2000, arrests have been made in four cases. The remaining cases are either awaiting the return of processed evidence or remain open with no evidence to proceed with the case, Lewis said.
Uniform Crime Report figures show the 2000 figure is up from 1999, in which 12 arsons were reported. In 1998, the UCR reflects 19 reported arsons.
Investigators said a Friday night vacant house fire on Rubush Avenue the first reported arson case of 2001 is not believed to be related to those that occurred in December.
Lewis said he sees the joint proposal as a proactive step as the two agencies work together to improve efficiency.
Lewis said he expects an arrest in December's rash of arsons in vacant houses. Investigators are currently evaluating interviews in the case and eyeing suspects, he said.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at mtodd@themeridianstar.com.

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