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Username: Dougw

Post Number: 2046
Registered: 11-2003
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http://articles.moneycentral.m sn.com/Insurance/InsureYourHom e/BrokeHomeownersTurnToArson.a spx


Broke homeowners linked to arsons

Authorities in economically stressed cities see an increase in torched houses. Is the nation's mortgage mess transforming more Americans into criminals?

By Marilyn Lewis

Arson is nothing new in Detroit. It's a time-honored weapon of the angry, vengeful, distressed and dispossessed in a city that gets hurt harder and sooner than others, making it a perfect place to spot early evidence of stress from the real-estate meltdown.

The Detroit Fire Department can't draw a definitive link between its rising arson rate (151 arrest warrants in 2007), rising foreclosures (up more than 65% last year) and falling housing prices (the region's median house price dropped 17.3% in the past four years, to $145,173).

But Capt. Steve Varnas of the department's arson section says he sees a connection: In 2005, the city issued only 80 arrest warrants for arson -- about half the number last year. "Things were going great," Varnas says. "There were fewer desperate people in 2004 and 2005."

Across the U.S., homeowners are searching for ways to escape from mortgages they can't pay -- or don't want to. ...

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