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Ex-FBI profiler explains science that broke-up arson string

12:18 AM, Nov 20, 2012   |    comments
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The man who helped authorities nab five people they set 26 fires in and around the Knoxville area told 10News more about his technique Monday night.

Dr. David Icove worked with the Knox County Sheriff's Office and Knoxville Fire Department to put a stop to the fires which had been occurring since mid-October.

Previous Story: Ex-FBI profiler helps nab serial arsonists

Icove currently works as a professor at UT. But, before that he honed his fire investigation skills by working at the FBI as a profiler.

During the early-1980s, Icove and the FBI embraced a new scientific technique to track down serial arsonists.

With the help of Knoxville-based arson research, Icove began to place his focus on the motives of suspected arsonists.

"We developed a series of profiles of arsonists and we broke it down by motive," he said. "We found out that certain factors based on the motive of the offender described the type of materials they might use, their proximity to the scene."

Using that information, Icove then comes up with one of six statistically distinct profiles the serial arsonist might fit into. Those motive profiles include vandalism, excitement, revenge, planned concealment, profit and extremism.

"For example, an individual who may use excessive amounts of accelerants may indicate that it is more likely a revenge fire," Icove said.

That motive profile subsequently helps investigators narrow down their list of suspects.

"It may reduce a [suspect] list from 150, 200 suspects or persons of interest down to maybe one or two that you think may have those characteristics," he said.

As time has gone on, the technique has become more popular amongst American law enforcement agencies, according to Icove. He's written multiple textbooks on the the science of fire and arson investigation. He co-authored the book Kirk's Fire Investigation.

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