Yet another indicator of our collapsing empire jumped out at me from the headlines today. Back in the roaring 90’s when there were stories about burning SUVs, the culprits were inevitably “eco-terrorists” like Jeff “Free” Luers – the young Oregonian who was initially sentenced to 22 years for burning 3 gas guzzlers on a car lot. Nowadays, “desperate motorists behind on their car payments have turned to torching their Tahoes and burning their Blazers in hopes a payout from their insurer will reap a quick payoff.”
According to the Modesto Bee, suspected vehicle arson fraud jumped 31% from 2007 to 2008. Damn! They better slow down or there aren’t going to be any cars left for the rest of us to torch when the real shit goes down.
But seriously. I’m starting to think that there are more TV shows about criminal forensic investigation units than there are actual forensic investigation units. Doug Maner, who handles auto insurance fraud for Stanislaus County’s district attorney office, was quoted in the article as saying that the real arson numbers are probably higher, but they don’t have enough staff to look into all the fires.
In San Francisco, the Fire Department’s arson unit has been so de-funded and mismanaged that Elmer Carr, the captain from 1995 until 2005, recently called it “a joke.” (Maybe he’s just embarrassed that they haven’t been able to sniff out the infamous porta-potty arsonist, who has burned up about two dozen outhouses in the city recently.)
Either way, people burning their cars for insurance money is really nothing new. When people start burning their big screen, HD TVs because they can’t make the payments… that’s when you’ll know things are really about to get ugly.