Tommy Freeman

Tommy Freeman
LaFayette is experiencing a “plague” of arsons that are targeting old and abandoned homes.

Public safety director chief Tommy Freeman said there have been 10 structure fires so far this year, including six confirmed as arsons.

Freeman said LaFayette has the highest instance of arson compared to cities its size in Georgia.

“It has been an ongoing problem since I began office,” Freeman said.

He said he was made aware of the problem before coming to the city as public safety director in March 2007.

Freeman said the problem is so severe that the state fire marshals office is now part of the investigation along with the city.

Freeman said the LaFayette Police and Fire Departments are working all possible leads.

“We are not going to put our eggs in one basket. We are going to look at everything,” Freeman said. “We are working with the crime lab and the state fire marshal to get to the bottom of it.”

The target

Freeman said the arsonists are targeting vacant and abandoned homes. A majority of those targets have been in the Linwood area and have branched out into the northwestern areas on Indiana, First, and North Chattanooga streets.

The arsonists, Freeman said, are mostly using a liquid to ignite the fires.

“We have been plagued in this city with people who like to watch things burn,” he said.

Freeman wonders if there is a pyromaniac behind the arsons and said arson is a felony in Georgia, with the pos-sibly of 20 years in prison.

The fires have resulted in total losses of property, but through investigations, Freeman said these fires do not relate to insurance, as the properties are not insured.

Freeman said the arsonist is not targeting occupied residences and most of the arsons are occurring between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Freeman said police are conducting field interviews at night with individuals who are out on the streets and this has also lead to arrests in auto thefts.

$10,000 reward

Freeman said the citizens of LaFayette are encouraged to give police any information that would lead to an ar-rest of the arsonist(s).

Freeman said there is a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of an arsonist in Georgia and Freeman is asking for the public’s help.

“Any bit of information helps,” he said. “Citizens should be aware who is walking around the community at night.”

Freeman said anyone with this information of any suspicious behavior is encouraged to contact the LaFayette Police and Fire Department, Cpl. P.D. Vaughn, chief Freeman, or any other LaFayette police officer.

“It is an ongoing investigation,” Freeman said.

Walker County Messenger