Fires in New Jersey city to be treated as crime scenes

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2011 4:19 PM
Fires in New Jersey city to be treated as crime scenes

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - All building fires in the poverty-stricken New Jersey city of Camden, the scene of three big blazes in two weeks, are to be treated as crime scenes from now on, authorities said on Tuesday.

The recent fires in Camden have not been labeled crimes, but the move allows law enforcement to preserve any potential evidence, said Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk.

The announcement comes two days after a fire destroyed a vacant detergent factory. Earlier fires burned through an abandoned tire warehouse and an abandoned garment factory.

No one was injured.

Faulk said the Camden Police Department will take control of all fire scenes as soon as the flames have been put out.

A city of about 80,000 people just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Camden was once a thriving manufacturing town. But it has declined to become one of the poorest and most dangerous cities in the nation.

Howard Gillette, a history professor at Rutgers University in Camden, said it was unlikely the fires mark a return of the arsons of the 1980s when building owners tried to collect insurance rather than hold mortgages on property that was declining in value.

These fires illustrate the deterioration of the city, he said.

"It piles on the decline," Gillette said.

(Reporting by Dave Warner, editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune)