Each year, arson in Rhode Island causes millions of dollars in losses to individuals, insurers and the government. These losses affect everyone, resulting in higher insurance premiums, taxes and other costs. The worst consequences, however, are not financial, but personal. Arson is a dangerous crime. It devastates victims emotionally and financially, and can result in serious injury or death.
Recognizing the significant financial and personal losses of arson, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin has designated an arson prosecutor as a liaison to the State Fire Marshal's Office and to municipal police departments to work with local law enforcement investigators and fire marshals to apprehend, investigate and prosecute arsonists.
Attorney General Kilmartin designated Special Assistant Attorney General John H. Dean as the liaison. Prior to attending law school, Dean spent fifteen years in public safety, including ten years as a career firefighter. Having been a certified firefighter, fire instructor, emergency rescue technician, and paramedic, Dean is uniquely qualified to understand the dynamics of arson crimes and the technical nature that is associated with its prosecution.
"Experience has shown that early and aggressive intervention by trained fire and police investigators and prosecutors leads to dramatic results in solving and prosecuting arson crimes. It is critical to be on the scene at the first possible instance to obtain witness information and secure evidence which, in most cases, may be compromised or lost entirely due to delay, neglect, or intentional destruction," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
As liaison, Dean works closely with the members of the State Fire Marshal's Office, local fire department investigators and the Providence Fire Department Arson Squad. Available to respond to a fire at any time, Dean is an active participant in many investigations, gaining valuable firsthand knowledge of the scene, viewing the collection of evidence as it is gathered, observe witness interviews, and serving as legal advisor should any issues appear.
The Office currently has approximately 20 arson prosecutions pending, almost half of which are first degree arsons. In connection with the renewed focus upon the crime of arson, the Office of Attorney General has drafted a protocol for the investigation of arson fires to be presented to police and fire departments in the near future. Based on implementation of the "team approach" that has been successfully utilized in other jurisdictions, the expectation is that Rhode Island will become a leader in successfully prosecuting arson crimes.