A community-wide effort to halt a rash of suspicious fires in a northeast Detroit neighborhood has resulted in the arrest of a suspect believed to be responsible for 25 or more arsons over the past two months, Police Chief James Craig and Executive Fire Commissioner Eric Jones announced today.
The suspect, Marzein Porter, 40, of Detroit was arrested early Monday morning by investigators with the city’s Arson Task Force. At the time of his arrest, Porter was allegedly caught in the act of setting a fire in the same neighborhood where dozens of suspicious fires have occurred over the past two months, primarily in the area west of Gratiot between Seven Mile and Eight Mile.
Porter was charged today with 3 counts of second-degree arson, which carries with it a maximum penalty of 20 years. Additional counts may be added as the investigation unfolds, Jones said, and investigators are confident Porter may be responsible for at least two dozen intentionally set fires at vacant structures.
Over the past several weeks, task force investigators and representatives of the Mayor’s Department of Neighborhoods knocked on doors and distributed information to residents about the fires in the area. Chief Craig said that several useful tips from residents aided the investigation that led to Porter’s eventual arrest.
“This arrest is the result of outstanding investigative work and collaboration,” said Chief Craig. “This just goes to show that while the Mayor announced the end of Angels’ Night patrols last week, the work of catching those responsible for setting fires doesn’t stop.”
The arson task force was established in 2015 and is comprised of arson investigators and DPD detectives, as well as 4 members from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobbacco & Firearms (ATF). After the task force was created, arson investigations increased by nearly 60 percent and suspicious fires have gone down by 28 percent.
Commissioner Jones also thanked neighbors who provided helpful tips and credited task force members for their outstanding investigative work to identify and arrest the suspect.
“Fires in that area were quiet during the Angels’ Night period, probably because the suspect knew we’d be out in force looking for him,” Jones said. “But our investigators also knew he’d be back out there once he felt the heat was off. They were right and they literally caught him red handed, thanks to good intel provided by our community partners and tipsters.”
Jones says he believes that taking a suspected serial arsonist off the street will help to further decrease fires across the city. Since 2014, structure fires overall have declined by 30%, due in large part to the city’s efforts to remove nearly 13,000 dangerous vacant buildings, along with more effective arson investigations.