Is Vermont Experiencing an Arson Epidemic?

On February 21 police were notified of a structure fire in Cambridge that destroyed a local sugar house and its contents estimated at a value of $50,000. After more than two hours of battling the blaze in sub-zero temperatures, the fire was extinguished. Then on March 9 a tip led investigators to uncover that the fire had been deliberately set – allegedly by Cianna Allen, 25 years-old, by Hyde Park. According to reports, Allen had been drinking the night of the blaze and deliberately set the fire on Plot Road hoping to ‘get-back’ at a boyfriend.

That same month a man in Burlington was arrested for attempting to burn down the City Hall building in Burlington. This occurred just a few days before five UVM students were charged with arson for setting fires inside the college’s dormitories – charges that the State’s Attorney declined to prosecute.

This month, authorities are investigating two additional arsons that took place in Stowe where multiple fires broke out at different locations between 10:30pm and 2am. Although the fires have been determined to be intentional, at the time of this writing no suspects are in custody.

These are just a few of the many cases of arson being investigated this year.

Since 2016, arson crimes in Vermont are on the rise according to FBI data. However, throughout the rest of the United States, arson has been on the decline suggesting that arson has become – or remains – the weapon of choice among the state’s criminal elements. In spite of the increase in arsons, in-state state crime reports make it difficult to determine exactly how many acts of arson have been committed in recent years.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing facts presented in the FBI data reveals that the overwhelming majority of arsons in Vermont are committed by boyfriends or girlfriends, or by parents suggesting that arson may also be connected to Vermont’s equally disturbing trend of domestic violence.

Due to the fact that so many towns throughout the state do not register their local crime statistics with federal or even statewide agencies, determining the severity of the problem is made more difficult, but both independent research and FBI data suggest that arson is becoming an increasing problem throughout the state.