South Carolina Arson Hotline Tip Solves Arson Case

December 17, 2008

A tip to the South Carolina Arson Hotline helped solve a Greenwood home arson case and led to a reward for the tipster, according to officials.

Lt. Bobby Shealy of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said the fire was intentionally set at the home on March 10, 2008. The damage is estimated at $30,000.

Information provided through the South Carolina Arson Hotline helped lead to the arrest of Michael Lane Sibert who pled guilty on Oct. 24, 2008, officials reported. Sibert was sentenced to 10 years, suspended to three years in the Department of Corrections, five years probation, and ordered Sibert to pay $4,000 in restitution.

The anonymous informant received the $500 reward from the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of South Carolina (IIABSC), which has funded the hotline rewards for 25 years.

Founded in 1982, the hotline has received thousands of calls which have resulted in numerous arson fires being solved. In the past five years, more than 7,000 calls resulted in 365 tips which have led to the arrest and conviction of many arsonists, according to officials. The arson hotline is 1-800-92-ARSON.

Rewards through the hotline have been paid in Aiken County, Clinton, Columbia, Dillon County, Gaffney, Greenville County, Hemingway, Jasper County, Lancaster, Lake City, Laurens, Marion, Scranton and Westminster.

The largest reward offered was $22,000 in the case of the Effingham Baptist Church fire. The largest reward paid for a church fire was $7,000 in the cases of the Springhill AME Church in Dillon and Islamic Center and Masjid of Greenville fire in 1997. The largest reward paid for a home or business fire was $2,500 in Columbia.

Arsonists intentionally set fires that destroyed $878 million worth of property in 2007, down 1.2 percent from $889 million in 2006. These fires include factories, residential buildings, churches and motor vehicles, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Vandalism is the leading cause of arson. An Insurance Research Council study indicates that only 14 percent of arson suspects are motivated by a desire to defraud an insurance company, but other studies find the percentage is higher. Between 20 and 25 percent of arson fires are drug-related.

The national average loss per arson offense is $17,289 according to the Insurance Information Institute. For structures, arson damages were $32,364 on average and $7,890 for motor vehicles. Arsons of industrial and manufacturing structures resulted in the highest average dollar loses – an average of $114,699 per arson.

The hotline is answered by SCLED agents. The SCLED arson investigators assist local law enforcement and fire services with the investigation of arson, explosives and related crimes. Additional resources available include arson and bomb dogs, technical equipment and bomb squad personnel to assist local agencies.

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