Arson incidents up in Daly City

While violent crime such as murder, rape and assault has remained mostly steady in Daly City, according to a recent report, a rise in the reported number of minor arson incidents has officials puzzled.

In a report released this week by the FBI that compared annual reported incidents of crime for cities with more than 100,000 people, violent crime numbers in Daly City were mostly consistent between 2005 and 2006. The report shows that there were 286 reports of violent crimes in 2005 and 289 in 2006 in Daly City. Reported assaults were tallied at 142 in 2005 and 134 in 2006.

But reported incidents of arson increased from 15 in 2005 to 23 in 2006. There has also been a recent rash of arson in 2007, but the number is unknown, said police Capt. Mike Edwards, who added that the problem is “not at epidemic proportions.”

Police and fire officials have been monitoring sporadic acts of arson and have stepped up the search for potential suspects. In some instances, law enforcement officers have responded to random fires set to residents’ recycling bins and trash cans, among other things.

“We’ve had an increase in arson, which, percentagewise, might be considered a significant increase,” Edwards said. “Whether it’s kids playing a prank or a hard-core arsonist, we’re not sure yet. It’s almost like they are looking for something to burn. They’ll set recycling bins on fire or a couple of rolls of toilet paperon fire.”

There have been no arrests in these cases. Deputy Fire Chief Michael Velasquez would not comment except to say firefighters and police are working together.

“We’re taking the investigation very seriously,” he said. “We’re fortunate that there haven’t been any incidents in which these fires have progressed to a life-safety issue or major property damage.”

The violent crime statistics are encouraging because the police force is short-staffed, said Mayor Maggie Gomez, who said police have made major strides in fighting crime.

“The trend in crime will probably be reduced because they are doing such an excellent job,” she said.

bfoley@examiner.com

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