The Fire and Explosion Investigation Section of The Massachusetts State Police recently received accolades from two different federal agencies. First, in its most recent report, Attacking the Crime of Arson, the US Fire Administration named this Massachusetts State Police Section as "the most effective in the nation." The national case closure rate for arson is 2%; the Section's rate in Massachusetts consistently hovers near 70%. This astonishing discrepancy has led to many state and local arson squads looking to the Bay State to emulate their model. Then, the FBI demonstrated their confidence in the Section's expertise in juvenile arson when it published an article authored by Sergeant Paul Zipper on the cover of its April 2005 issue of the Law Enforcement Bulletin.
The Section has an unwavering commitment to public awareness and partnerships geared to preventing youthful involvement in arson and explosions. Not only was this the reason that the Section was fittingly honored recently, by District Attorney Martha Coakley at the Juvenile Arson Awareness Recognition Day at the State House, but it also explains why the Section is the backbone of the training provided at the nation's premiere conference on this topic held in Framingham in November.
When kids start fires, experiment with explosives, or threaten to do both, they not only place themselves - and everyone around them - in immediate danger, but they also create a climate of fear. In this charged atmosphere, where legitimately different interests compete for priority, confusion can choke the air and cloud the judgement of the most reasonable professionals. When decisions need to be made quickly, especially in the absence of established protocols, there can be a rush to judgement and a grasp for any fast answer that could serve to break the fall. No one is well served by this scenario, least of all the children and adolescents who capture the concern of public safety officials.
One of the main agencies to work closely with this Section is The Coalition for Kids in Danger (The Coalition). This statewide non-profit agency is the umbrella organization for the 601 agencies and departments that collaborate in 25 interagency intervention programs operating in 8 regional networks, coordinating services for over 500 families in our state each year who trust them with the safety of our children. The Coalition is also the sponsor of the annual conference to combat the problem of juvenile firesetting and bomb-making.
The Massachusetts conference doesn't promise a quick fix, because our state's experts know only too well there just aren't any that work. The conference presenters won't offer "a program in a box" because every one of them works in the field and derives their credibility directly from experience. The specialized classes won't give drive-thru certifications that look impressive on resumes but can't withstand the heat of the first front page incident.
What public safety officials can get at this 12 th Annual Conference for Kids in Danger - unmatched in the field - is the opportunity to network with so many colleagues, from so many disciplines, from so many places, that each conversation gives a fresh perspective and a new idea. Some will have just begun the journey, others are the original pioneers in the field, and most place themselves somewhere between this span of over 20 years of experience.
From breakouts, to keynotes, to panel sessions to full day institutes, this conference offers an incredible range of learning experiences to acquire new information just emerging from the field, to develop or hone skills unique to this work, or to become familiar with the latest books, videos, and interactive educational resources. With these kinds of navigational tools, there's no need for a shortcut to ways to make all communities, agencies or facilities safe havens for children and adolescents. Fourteen of the breakouts, panel sessions and full day institutes are presented by Section Investigators, giving this elite Section yet another national spotlight.
For more information about The Coalition and the conference please visit their website at www.kidsandfire.net