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Arson: Behavioral and Economic Aspects - Arson And Collective Violence

fires property riots hand

The great Albany fire of 1793 has been documented as an illustration of how arson, combined with rioting, has been a mechanism for venting the grievances and frustrations of servitude and oppression. Similar phenomena were the inner-city riots of the 1960s, the prison uprisings during the 1970s and 1980s, and the rebellion in 1992 following the acquittal of the Los Angeles police officers charged with the videotaped beating of Rodney King. Studies of this behavior have shown that the fires associated with mob violence are not necessarily the work of arsonists but that they simply go hand in hand with the accompanying property destruction and looting. The persons participating in such incidents have rarely been arrested for arson and therefore have remained unstudied, but analyses of the spatial distribution of fires during riots suggest that these fires occur more often in neighborhoods where the median income is at or below the poverty line and where the participants have the least to lose in terms of personal property that could be destroyed by fire.

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