New York Superintendent of Insurance Gregory Serio and Secretary of State Randy Daniels on Monday recognized national “Arson Awareness Week” by encouraging New Yorkers to protect themselves from arson-related insurance fraud. Arson is a serious crime that results in deaths of innocent victims and firefighters, as well as significant economic losses for individuals and businesses whose property may be destroyed or otherwise affected.
“Arson Awareness Week, from May 2-8, gives us an opportunity to educate the public on how the ruthless crime of arson directly harms honest homeowners and businesses throughout New York State,” Serio said. “The objective of arsonists is to collect insurance payouts that, like all types of insurance fraud, can lead to inflated insurance costs for honest consumers. Under the leadership of Governor Pataki, the Insurance Department created an Arson Unit within our Frauds Bureau to put more resources behind our efforts to fight arson. Working with the State Department and law enforcement community, we’re doing more to investigate and prosecute arson to safeguard New Yorkers from this serious crime.”
Daniels, whose agency oversees the State Office of Fire and Control (OFPC), said, “Arson is never a victimless crime and too many times, the victims pay for this with their lives. Governor Pataki strongly supports efforts to raise arson awareness among, educators and residents, and the Department of State will continue to work closely with our at State and local levels to combat arson, reduce fire risks, and protect all New Yorkers.”
Arson Awareness Week is supported by the United States Fire Administration (USFA) and the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) and is designed to raise the public’s awareness of arson, as well as to recognize the efforts of the fire and law enforcement community to diligently investigate and gather evidence that leads to the apprehension and prosecution of those that commit arson.
Arson is estimated to cause 500 deaths and $2 billion in property damage nationally each year. Three of every four vacant building fires are officially classified as incendiary or suspicious. Firefighters are three times more likely to be injured fighting a vacant building fire than any ordinary structure fire.
“Arson is a serious crime that places firefighters and innocent individuals in harm’s way by selfish criminals who have no regard for the lives of others. Arsonists submit claims to receive insurance money and fraudulently take money out of the insurance system intended for the payments of legitimate claims. The Department and insurance industry are committed to working together to stop arson to ensure that only legitimate claims are paid,” Serio said.
The Department in 2003 received 139 reports of suspicious fires related to insurance fraud.
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