Saturday, February 02, 2008

Can't Pay the Mortgage? Just Burn down the House.

MSN money has a story on the growing number of arsonists setting their house on fire due to the mortgage crisis:

Many observers say there's no question that people commit arson under economic stress. "Traditionally, there will be some acts of fraud that are driven by the economic conditions, no question about it," Scafidi says. A slice of the normally law-abiding population -- in every economic stratum -- will seize on arson as a solution under the right set of pressures, he says.

I love the way the article makes it sound like any normal law-abiding citizen will burn down his or her house if the pressure gets high enough. Sorry, this is like saying that law-abiding citizens with gun permits shoot people just because they are mad and have a gun nearby. It almost never happens. Arsonists are a particular group of people with a particular strain of negative psychological traits. They are not "normal" mentally healthy people who just get a wild hair up their ass when the economy takes a downturn.


Blogger Cham said...

I don't think the article makes you believe that any normal person would burn down their house. What it does say that outside financial pressures can be the catalyst for seemingly law-abiding citizens to take a somewhat violent approach to alleviating their burden. Not everyone is going to take a logical approach to potentially losing their home.

9:50 AM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger Francis W. Porretto said...

"Make it illegal, and it acquires a mystique. Look at arson. Who can honestly say he hasn't set fire to some great public building? I know I have." -- Monty Python's Flying Circus "Mouse Problem" sketch.

Of course, the reality isn't quite as funny.

10:10 AM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger TMink said...

"A slice of the normally law-abiding population -- in every economic stratum -- will seize on arson as a solution under the right set of pressures, he says."

Looks pretty straightforward to me Cham.


10:14 AM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


What the article implies is that a small portion of normal people will burn down their house given the right pressure. Perhaps,I was not clear. The people who burn down their house are probably not, and never were totally normal, they probably had passive aggressive strategies for handling stress, had overcontrolled hostility and other psychological traits that gave them a predisposition to committing arson. In other words, someone without these traits might have found a more constructive way to handle economic stress--get a second job, sell the house at a loss, etc.

10:16 AM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

I guess we are getting stuck on the word, "normal". What is normal? Is someone who goes to church, raises a family, and is kind to people, but also fails to pay his/her bills on time normal? How about the recluse that can't speak in complete sentences, looks at people strangely and lives in a box behind the supermarket yet has no debt and hasn't ever hurt anyone, is he normal?

10:59 AM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

I've thought about burning down my house, but not to avoid foreclosure. Rather, to avoid doing the dishes.

(And in case my house ever does catch fire, I would like to point out that I am joking here.)

11:10 AM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger DADvocate said...

The area where I live used to be the second largest tobacco market in Kentucky. Since price subsidies ended at least two tobacco warehouses have burned down and attributed to arson. However, no arrests were made since no one could prove who did it.

It could have been a homeless person, vandal, etc. But it sure is curious that the fires occurred when the value of the decades old buildings dropped to almost nothing. Insurance and hard times make arson tempting for some.

11:22 AM, February 02, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK ... then maybe use the word "healthy."

In working with the very messed up guys I do, who think like criminals because they ARE criminals, I teach them about healthy coping and healthy thinking. That simply means: You don't hurt yourself AND you don't hurt other people (and by definition, that means you don't break the law, either).

11:36 AM, February 02, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess rules of conversation need to be set up before the comments are started.

If you make a statement, cham, and someone replies who does not agree with your point of view, you seem to ratchet the subject matter a tad bit, so you become "right" again.

Granted, all replies seem to eventually drift 90 degrees from the original subject matter as the comments pile up. And I contribute to that myself every time I open my pie hole. Maybe I notice it more if I just read and keep my tangents to myself, I guess.

My life became a financial train wreck years ago, and I'm still trying to recover. Although it took quite some time to develop a way to recovery, arson never occurred to me. Maybe I'm weird.

11:53 AM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

Where do I say I am right?

11:55 AM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger Jason said...

There are weak canaries in every mine. Without the stress of dangerous gases in the air, they look and function just like any other. It might even be hard to tell the difference. But that difference becomes clear the moment they are stressed.

11:58 AM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger The North Coast said...

We have had a big upswing in suspicious fires in new, unoccupied houses in the suburbs of Chicago, specifically in Naperville and Orland Park, and the rate of such fires has risen in tandem with the upswing in foreclosures and downturn in sales.

3:56 PM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger JohnAnnArbor said...

Hmm. I have heard of foreclosed homes near me selling for low prices--sometimes because of homeowner sabotage before leaving, causing extensive damage (intentional flooding of basement, tearing up walls, etc.).

I have considered cleaning up my house with a flamethrower on my more frustrated days, but cooler heads (ha!) prevailed....

4:00 PM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger Danny said...

johnannarbor- a bunch of houses withFor Sale signs have burnt in the newish condo complexes off Pontiac trail,and in the areas off Geddes in Superior Township. Looks like the AAPD or the Washtenaw Sheriff's office havent arrested anyone yet.

7:12 PM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger JohnAnnArbor said...

Huh. Didn't know that. I know that ELF-types torched a few houses under construction somewhere in the western Plymouth-Canton area, but that was several years ago.

8:01 PM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger Maxine Weiss said...

A woman will.

We know that a woman pushed to the brink, or a woman scorned is capable of anything !

8:13 PM, February 02, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

Every time someone talks about how someone "pushed to the brink" will snap and sees that as some form of excuse, they are denigrating the majority of people who when pushed to that same brink don't.

People who burn houses are criminals. Whether it's their main modus or not isn't relevant. They're criminals.

9:29 AM, February 03, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said, oligonicella!

10:00 AM, February 03, 2008  
Blogger dienw said...

There are no arsonists. Just frustrated bonfire enthusiasts.

11:45 AM, February 03, 2008  
Blogger Michele said...

Funny this topic should come up. I was driving through the Smokies yesterday and had noticed so many businesses that had burned down that I could no longer chalk it up to coincidence. I thought I might go for a drive with my camera and take photos of all of them. I also thought about taking photos of the ones I thought might go up in flames soon.

6:50 AM, February 04, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


I thought the saying was "got a wild hair up your ass" and it means "a notional cause of irrational or obsessive behavior" in one of the slang dictionaries I looked up.

10:33 AM, February 04, 2008  
Blogger Serket said...

One more issue that hurts banks.

6:08 PM, February 04, 2008  
Blogger Darleen said...

Unoccupied homes invite trouble. They become hangouts...squatters, bored teens, druggies

get a neighborhood with a significant percentage of empty/abandoned/boarded up homes and it bumps up the criminal events even further.

1:30 AM, February 05, 2008  
Blogger Xiaoding said...

The statement the article makes is perfectly true, so what's the problem? Sounds a bit like denial to me.

More than one play or movie has been made driving this point home. Moll Flanders, for instance. Or that western I can't remember the name of, where one character says "honest men are honest, as long as it PAYS".

12:48 PM, February 05, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

xiaoding --

We're contending their definition of "normally law abiding". Just because they don't get caught, doesn't mean they're law abiding. The fact that they torch their home to avoid problems proves they're not in those circumstances and supplies doubt as to their overall lawfulness.

Um, movies and plays are not a good source of truths. But, I'll give them to you as such. Therefore -- "Honesty is the best policy. If I lose mine honor, I lose myself." -- Shakespeare.

3:17 PM, February 06, 2008  
Blogger Xiaoding said...

"Um, movies and plays are not a good source of truths. But, I'll give them to you as such. Therefore -- "Honesty is the best policy. If I lose mine honor, I lose myself." -- Shakespeare."

Well, I disagree on the first point. Why write, if not to tell the truth?

As to the second, from the Wild Bunch, when the leader says he has an obligation to keep his word to the company, the other fellow says (this is not an exact quote)"keep your word? You word? To who? WHO? Words are for men, not companys!" :)

8:16 AM, February 07, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hollywood in particular, is not a good source of truths. You think "Kill Bill" is loaded with truths? How about "The Brady Bunch"? Or maybe "Texas Chainsaw Massacre?" Uh, no.

If you really want to play tit for tat with play and movie quotes, I can match any you fob up with one that expresses exactly the opposite opinion. That is why plays and movies are not a good source.

3:52 PM, February 08, 2008  
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9:22 PM, February 14, 2008  

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