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Arson Definition Changes In D.C., Dramatically Altering Closure Rate

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The revised definition of arson now only covers cases where there is sufficient evidence of intent to make an arrest.
Markette Smith
The revised definition of arson now only covers cases where there is sufficient evidence of intent to make an arrest.

D.C. Fire Department officials say they've changed the perameters for the definition of arson in the District. The move is helping the department increase its closure rate for arson investigations.

The Washington Post reports that the fire department narrowed the definition from deliberately set fires to those in which there was evidence of willful or malicious intent sufficient to support an arrest.

That led to a drop of nearly 80 percent in arsons between fiscal 2009 and 2012 — and increase in the closure rate for investigators.

The fire department says the numbers may seem low because its only counting proven cases that have led to charges.

And according to a department spokesperson, the distinction is part of a more detailed analysis of arson case identification and closure.

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