Funding cuts shutdown Michigan arson tip program


JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — They’ve been credited with helping solve countless arsons, but the organization that offers rewards for arson tips is shutting down at the end of the month.

6 News has the details on why they’re closing and what this means for Michigan.

The city of Jackson has seen two unsolved arsons in the past seven months, and Patrick Riney says solving them could soon be getting harder.

“I feel for the public safety community. It’s a tool they can’t use anymore,” said Riney, Executive Director of the Michigan Arson Prevention Committee.

The Michigan Arson Prevention Committee is shutting down at the end of the month after helping solve thousands of arson cases over the last 40 years.

An $80,000 cut from the committee’s main backer, the Michigan Basic Property Insurance Association, is forcing them to close.

“Their statement to us was that they didn’t feel they needed to be the sole funding source for the MAPC,” Riney said. “They couldn’t see past the dollars and cents and continue on with the funding.”

It’s Michigan’s primary arson reward program, putting up signs all over the state, offering rewards for arson tips, and providing contact information for authorities.

“I don’t see anyone willing to step up and take on that cause,” Riney said.

Riney says he’s concerned about what’s going to happen to arson investigations across the state now that these rewards are going away.

“It takes one more tool out of their toolbox. That’s the easy part is figuring out how the fire started. It’s putting the fire with a person and having enough of that information to go and get a prosecution on it,” Riney said.

State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer says the rewards have been instrumental in getting people to come forward, and the committee will be missed.

“We have to take a different approach to how we educate fire departments so that if they’re getting tips from citizens or folks, how do they get those tips to the investigators,” Sehlmeyer said.

Michigan Basic did not return messages for comment.

“It’s a sad day. I hate to see it go,” Riney said.

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