Pyros burn opportunities for others

SHEER boredom, social envy and jealousy would be among the factors driving the trend of public housing arson attacks.

It is no different to the "school's out" routine of punctual 4pm scrub fires that our fire services seem to be endlessly attending in the outer suburbs each summer.

This pyrrhic madness, involving mostly children and adolescents destroying community property, has cost the state more than $22 million since 2004. That's equivalent to 90 new housing dwellings. A pipe dream gone up in smoke for the 2700 registered on state housing waiting lists.

What makes an arsonist tick? You may as well ask what motivates an arsonist to light murderous bushfires. Are they bored? Poor home life? Socially disconnected? Abused? We may empathise over sad life stories, but most would only care to the extent that the damage involves expensive community investments.

The government has a range of measures in place to combat the phenomenon: monitoring devices, a $10,000 reward, private security firms and bans on housing estate residency for convicted arsonists, which sadly would be great news for some, compared to their current squalor.

Given that so many of these criminals are young, and whom the courts deem to be worthy of rehabilitation, then it is time for penalties involving the crime scene.

Arsonists should always be made to clean up the site. If the courts spare them jail then reparations should always be mandatory. Put them on the arson gang. If they don't front, or shirk the work, invoke the suspended sentence. Arson is a serious crime, in a state where public money is limited. The state can't afford to harbour those who would so contemptuously disregard our laws and public assets.

If minors are involved, in repeat offences, then maybe it's time to extend the punished to the parents.

Rehabilitation is always a valuable tool in crime prevention, but we can't keep absorbing the costly damage wrought by these young criminals, without dishing out a bit of their own medicine.

- BARRY PRISMALL, deputy editor

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