Commentary: Arson akin to terrorism and should be prosecuted heavily
by By Mike Degregorio
Jul 12, 2013 | 9358 views | 0 0 comments | 417 417 recommendations | email to a friend | print

For the Press-Banner


Regarding the Press-Banner article “Fire Burns half-acre in Zayante,” (June 28, page 2) — “The wind definitely cooperated with us,” it read.

This made me recall how I used to enjoy the cooling afternoon breeze that flows through the valley in the evening. Now, during fire season, I watch the tree tops sway with a sense of uneasiness.

The article continued, “The fire, which is still under investigation, could be the start of a tumultuous wildfire season following a relatively dry winter.” We realize that officials carry the responsibility of warning Santa Cruz Mountain residents of potential current or future conditions, but honestly, can we tone it down a little?

We are all aware of the prevailing dry conditions following a relatively dry winter. Do we need to keep hammering it home like some kind of weird mantra? I don’t think I’m alone when I say that the daily reminders cause a high degree of anxiety, not to mention fueling the imaginations of a few unstable individuals seeking recognition on the evening news.

In addition, the media terms, fire season and wildfire season are especially troubling as they insinuate that we should anticipate these terrifying, destructive, deadly and sometimes criminal occurrences like some kind of seasonal change. It was shocking to me how quickly these terms became a part of the everyday media lexicon.

Arson is currently a felony. However, is the threat of being charged with a felony really an effective deterrent? And how often are stiff penalties really enforced? Recently a man and a woman were captured near the Fish Hook in Santa Cruz. Witnesses described the man as running shirtless with a sneer on his face, as he started multiple fires. I wouldn’t be surprised if they both get off with a slap on the wrist. I believe that when an arsonist is arrested and found guilty an example should be made — consequence is the only true deterrent. What we need are stricter laws, enforcement and conviction.

In the 1800s in America, horse theft was considered a capital crime because it left victims helpless or greatly handicapped by the loss of their livelihood. The punishment was often the death penalty. The arsonist of today does much more than just leave victims helpless or greatly handicapped — innocent people die, local wildlife is decimated, homes and lives are destroyed, domestic pets panic and flee or die trapped inside burning homes and huge tax hikes are imposed to cover the cost of increased fire suppression (as is witnessed with the recent un-mandated special fire tax).

Penalties regarding arson should be severe and potential arsonists and the media should warn them of very serious consequences for their actions. Premeditated arson should be a capital offense and stringently prosecuted — it’s no different than terrorism. Santa Cruz Mountain residents live in fear each year at this time. There should be zero tolerance for this kind of criminal activity.

n Mike Degregario is a Ben Lomond resident.


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