People in Mid-Michigan react to arson problem - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

People in Mid-Michigan react to arson problem

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FLINT (WJRT) -

(03/05/13) - Arson - it's a widespread problem all too common in Flint and Saginaw.

 Now, tougher penalties will help crackdown on the people behind the crime that puts lives and property at stake.

ABC12 was there as Gov. Rick Snyder signed the new bills into law.

The hope is that increased punishments will make people think twice before setting fires.

Representative Stacy Erwin Oakes of Saginaw County spear-headed the passage of the bills.

The updates includes new felony penalties, better sentencing guidelines, and more prison time.

People who live in Mid-Michigan hope Tuesday's action will bring positive change in their communities.

ABC12's Siobhan Riley visited one Mid-Michigan neighborhood where arson has been a problem for years. Some are preparing to leave their homes because of it.

"Very frustrating because I've lived here for 15 years and I've got to get out of here for the safety of my family," said Lloyd Hodge.

Hodge is moving out of his home on Flint's east side.

He lives on Dakota Street, a neighborhood that has seen its fair share of arsons.

"I'm a retiree and I don't like having to look out my window everyday about wondering what's going on in my area. I want to look out in some peace and quiet," he said.

State leaders and Saginaw firefighters say Gov. Rick Snyder's decision to sign a package of bills to increase the penalties for crimes such as arson is a step in the right direction.

"We just need to have more people being involved and knowing what's going on as far as arson is concerned," said Ralph Martin, with the Saginaw Fire Department.

Those who live in the Flint neighborhood wonder if the bill will do enough to keep the criminals away, especially on a street where property values don't work in their favor.

"It's a darn shame that these homes here have been destroyed the way they have because this was a nice area. Seems like it's all went down hill," Vaughan said.

Gov. Snyder's administration says one out of three fires in the state in 2011 turned out to be arson and suspicious fires.

The Michigan Arson Prevention Council says 287 were in Flint.

Nearly 200 were in Saginaw.

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