(NEWSER– America's arson records are a total mess, per a year-long Scripps National Investigation that sums up its findings with this statement: "three-fourths of the arsons ... went unreported [to the federal government], masking a major threat to public safety." Scripps went inside the world of arson, digging into the National Fire Incident Reporting System. It's a database that falls under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security, and happens to be the largest of its kind in the world. The story NFIRS tells: a slim 5% of residential building fires are cases of arson. Scripps wanted to see if that figure checked out, and requested arson records from fire departments in America's 10 biggest cities. It analyzed what should have been reported to the national database and what actually was, and the findings are pretty staggering:

  • In 2011, New York reported 11 arsons but had 1,347; Indianapolis should have reported a minimum of 216, but instead reported zero; Houston reported 11% of its arsons, Chicago 32%; cash-poor Detroit couldn't even provide Scripps with an arson count.