Police investigate arson case
Published: Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 05:10
A university student's car was set on fire after its tires were stolen last week, an incident officials say is rare for criminal activity in the city of Newark.
The fire, ignited at approximately 4:06 a.m. Wednesday in the Pomeroy Station apartments' parking lot on East Main Street, engulfed senior Dave Barry's 2003 silver Honda Civic in flames. The incident, which caused irreparable damage to the vehicle, is currently under investigation by local police.
"It's not every day you get a call from the cops at 6 a.m. in the morning and they tell you your car's been vandalized and set on fire," Barry said.
When officers arrived on the scene Wednesday morning, they saw that the vehicle, missing its rims and tires, was completely aflame, said Newark police spokesman Lt. Mark Farrall. The local fire department was immediately called in to extinguish the blaze.
"We occasionally have cars whose tires have been removed, but it's rare that the car is set on fire," Farrall said.
Officers found no indication at the scene that the incident was gang-related, he said. Farrall recommends tudents who park their cars outside of garages should consider purchasing locks to secure their tires' lug nuts.
Alan Brown, the state's chief deputy fire marshal, said the initial investigation found that the fire was set intentionally, making the crime an arson case.
"We do get fires throughout the state and New Castle County, but as far as the city of Newark, this is the first time this has happened since we've been assisting the Newark fire department," said Brown, who has been assessing fire damage and crime in Newark since the city's own fire marshal left his position last year.
Barry, a resident of Pomeroy Station, said he does not know why his car was targeted.
"I was in complete awe that someone would do that to my car," said Barry, who used his Civic two days before the incident.
Junior Diptee Pathak's car, which was parked next to Barry's in the lot, sustained extensive damage from the fire, which Pathak believes was blown into her car by the wind. Half of her car was burned by the flames, and her tires and hubcaps melted from the heat.
"I was devastated," Pathak said. "It looked like a crime scene. Usually, you see this on TV or in movies, but when you see it in real life—it's creepy."
Her 2007 navy blue Toyota Corolla could not be salvaged, and Pathak's family, like Barry's, is currently handling the situation with their insurance agents.
"I felt bad for her because her car wasn't the target," Barry said of his fellow Pomeroy Station resident.
Pathak said Newark police called her at approximately 6 a.m. and asked her to come to the parking lot. After she saw the damage, officers asked her and Barry whether they had any enemies on campus that may have committed the crime.
"I really hope this is a one-time thing and there's no pattern," said Barry, who hopes to replace his car in the next few months.
His father, to whom the Civic is registered, is working with the family's car insurance company to cover the cost of the damages. Barry's father, who works with cars, told him that Honda parts, such as tires and hubcaps, are the most often stolen compared to other car makes. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the most stolen cars for 2010 and 2011 were Honda Accords and Civics.
While no one was injured in last week's incident, Pathak said she feels less secure living in the area.
"It's just not safe," Pathak said. "What are these guys capable of doing? They completely engulfed a car in flames and didn't care."
Although Barry does not feel his safety is now jeopardized, he said he wished surveillance cameras, as well as better lighting, were in place in the parking lot to improve safety. No surveillance cameras are in place over the parking lot at the Pomeroy Station apartments.
"It's unfortunate that the only way to find out who did it is through security cameras, and there aren't cameras," Barry said.
However, the rare case of arson could have resulted in worse, he said.
"At least nobody was hurt, and that's the number one thing," Barry said.