Doug Bingham, former Retired at USAF and Civilian Aerospace Engineer (1984-2017)
I was taking a break and visiting my sister at my parent’s home one night while on duty. There was an empty field just behind and to the left of my parent’s property. It was dusk, just before nightfall. My sister and I were on our parent’s back patio chatting when we saw a fire start up on that open field. We each could see a person near the fire but curiosity got the best of me so I got in my patrol car and drove over to the next street the field abutted.
I could clearly see a young man in his early twenties standing by a newer looking motorcycle that was now ablaze. The man had a 5 gallon gas can with him. I approached and the guy was nervous as hell and was positive I was going to arrest him for arson. That field had been there for decades, undeveloped and no one truly knew who owned it. The man offered no resistance but began whimpering and crying. He asked me if I was going to arrest him. I asked for his ID and he gave me his driver’s license. I then asked who the motorcycle belonged to and he stated it was his. I wrote down the man’s DL #, asked to see the registration and with that told him, “after this thing has burned out, you have 24 hours to remove it from this property.”
Stunned he wasn’t being arrested for arson I told him he was free to do with his property whatever he wanted, however…if he decided to make an insurance claim for stolen, lost or burned property he’d be arrested for arson, false report, insurance fraud and trespassing.”
Needless to say the guy was under water with his motorcycle payments and was trying to get rid of it. Now he’d be paying off a motorcycle he’d intentionally torched and if he tried to make an insurance claim, a police report would be on file and he’d face at least two felony charges. You can’t fix stupid!
Mike Bell – I love your story. Reminds me of one of mine. I’m not a cop, but a lawyer, and sometimes we come across the aftermath of this kind of stupidity.
A guy had a hard time selling a building. Coincidentally, it burnt. Insurance paid out. It happens, right?
Well, some years on, the guy had another building. Also wanted to get rid of it, and the contents. Coincidentally, it burnt. Well, the cops got involved, looking for arson / insurance fraud.
It well might have been, for all I know, but there’s one thing that was bound to stop the investigation dead in its tracks: insurance fraud arson requires an attempt to defraud the insurance company (otherwise it’s just a municipal-type offence of demolishing without a permit). The intent was likely there. The fire happened. The cops had all those piece in place, fairly solidly. There was only one thing missing that messed up the whole case: “guy” had forgotten to renew the insurance policy, and it was a month expired. No insurance = no arson = no crime = no case. And no building, whatever little it was worth.
I’m sure that the cops must have been laughing all the way to the station when they figured that one out.