New legislation could make it tough on arsonists

Firefighters in Dayton. (WDTN Photo)
Firefighters in Dayton. (WDTN Photo)

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Both Dayton arson investigators and the City of Dayton call it a win.

New legislation through the city may make it easier to charge suspected arsonists.

In Dayton, just like what they’d like to see in the statehouse, when you see or hear that arson investigators are on the scene of a fire, they are beginning an investigation, an investigation that often leads them to an unlikely source, the property owner.  That can sometimes be a tough task when arson occurs often in vacant homes.

“It’s a little backwards, but that’s the way of the ordinance and the Dayton statute is written,” said Dayton Fire Chief Jeff Payne.

Chief Payne says as it stands now, if an alleged arsonist admits guilt, that person is unable to be charged with a crime without a homeowner’s affidavit, but that could soon change.

In Wednesday’s commission meeting, a first hearing was held for new legislation.

“Now the arsonists have to provide us with proof or provide the court with proof that they had permission to set the fire from the owner.”

The ordinance may be passed as soon as next week.

“To match what we want the state legislature to do to make sure we can have that felony classification,” said Mayor Nan Whaley, City of Dayton.

It’s an ordinance that Chief Payne wants to change at the statewide level.

For now, if the ordinance passes next week, suspected arsonists could face misdemeanor charges in municipal court.  “But a misdemeanor is better than what we have right now.”

Those charges could change to a felony when the changes are proposed at the statehouse and that is something Chief Payne would like to see in the next few months.

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