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Local News... VERY local


By Kim Miller - Posted on 17 September 2009

This post has nothing to do with politics -- frankly, that subject is overwhelming right now.  I am not at all a drama queen, nor am I wanting sympathy.  But there's something really disturbing going on in my neighborhood and I thought you could help me play "sleuth."

My very own neighborhood is currently being threatened by a serial arsonist.   My new alarm clock is sirens, followed by news helicopters.... EVERY morning.  Between the story in the link and the following facts, what do you think is going on?

Background:

  1. The neighborhood is called The Houston Heights... it is 2 miles west of downtown Houston. 
  2. The original structure of my house is 100 years old (I know that's not old by East Coast standards, but it's OLD by Houston standards!); very typical of this historic part of town.
  3. It is a beautiful melting pot of ethnicity, sexual orientation, professions... you name it (BTW: my district was heavily Obama in the G.E... just had to say that to prove not ALL of Texas is like Gov. Perry.)
  4. Lots of people are here because their families have owned the homes for generations; others (like us) were smart enough to buy when it seemed like it could be a great location; others have come recently because it's "the" place to be.
  5. Houston is undergoing a big geographic change -- in the '80's, everyone worked downtown/Galleria area and commuted to the suburbs; now, people are tired of spending $$$ for gas and 10+ hours a week in traffic, so they're moving in droves into town -- and The Heights is the recipient of much of that growth.
  6. Developers fall over each other to get pieces of land in this neighborhood -- they desperately want to build and sell here because of the high demand, and the high-income people its attracting.  Some developers respect the Gingerbread/Victorian style homes; others just wanna build McMansions. 
  7. We're walking distance away from great restaurants, cool, artsy shopping are. Downtown Houston is only second in the nation -- next to NYC -- in theater seats....  And Houston is a healthy economy in a rough economic national backdrop.

The crimes:

  1. The first was a house -- a duplex.  One side was set ablaze; the other had a family living in it who fled (without harm, thank Goodness), but lost their home.
  2. No one else has been harmed to date.
  3. All other fires have been set in unoccupied homes or structures (i.e. garages).
  4. All of them happen around 5:15 A.M., and most of the now 11 fires have been on one block, though the culprit(s) has moved onto other blocks. 
  5. The block with the majority of fires is an even mix of beautiful new homes, older homes, and vacant-need-to-be-demolished structures.
  6. The arsonist is getting more daring -- this morning, it was TWO fires.  
Some people say it's a developer trying to drive prices down to buy.  Some say it's the City of Houston.  Some say it's a kid looking for thrill.  One poster on The Chronicle says it's got to be a woman, and she's a crazy artsy-fartsy type (personally, I think he's crazy).  Of course there's the question of insurance money, but I think that would mean the same person owning all that property, and that's not the case. 

What say ye?

I say, Holy Cow! Stay safe and I'm sending positive energy and thoughts your way!

My knee-jerk reaction was a developer. But I don't really know what I'd be basing that on.

The thing is, if it's someone who will benefit from ALL the arsons, then that will ultimately become obvious and wouldn't that then blow up in his/her face (no pun intended)?

It could be a very sick kid.

It could be someone who will benefit from ONE of the fires, but not all of them. So he/she would do more to not draw attention to the one he/she would benefit from!

What a mystery!

 

Thank you kindly for the positive energy, TC! I believe you are completely sincere in that offer, and I and my neighbors will happily accept your offer!

Interesting on the developer aspect.  I kinda think that too, but I tried not to bias that in my story-telling.  One big key to my opinion is the Houston Arson squad is top notch, and they still haven't caught anyone -- except the "person of interest" this morning, but while he was in custody, the second fire broke out.  Whoever it is is extremely crafty.  

 

Well, let me say this, without giving away too much of how I would possibly know people like this. . . .

IF it is a developer, he's not doing it himself.

He's "contracted" with an . . . um . . . legitmate businessman to handle that little problem for him.

How big is the area the guy is attacking? They don't have any cameras at street lights or anything, or have they planned on putting cameras up? I guess the person might see them put cameras up if he was in the area. I'm sure the police are on top if it but i'd imagine there has to be some kind of pattern they can hone in on. Weird situation. Maybe people should organize some kind of mass neighborhood watch and some people stay up around the time of the fires. In any case, I hope you stay safe and hopefully no one gets hurt. I can't imagine the feelings people having to be put through this.

The vast majority of fires have been contained to one city block... very weird.  The other three or so have been in a two-block radius from that.  

We have a neighborhood watch, and we even go to the annual block party on National Night Out -- but that's the problem: we go once a year for the party and to say hi to everyone, but when it's a normally very secure neighborhood, you take things for granted and don't think you'll ever actually have to enforce anything other than the occasional juvenile out of school pranks.  

It's clear that we need to talk to the organizers.  Also, I am armed and I know how to use all of the guns in the house, AND I have no hesitation doing so; Hubby's out of the country for work so it's just me right now. 

 

Wow, this is really disturbing. I agree with others it smells of developers.

I would get together with everyone else on the block (but only residents - no outsiders), and convince everyone with a window facing any empty property to point a webcam at it. I'm sure someone on the block will know a geek that can set it up for everybody.

Oh, and just a suggestion: I'd avoid posting "I'm home alone" type info online...

Thank you for that advice.  I don't use my real name online, but that's still good advice. 

 

How scary Kim,!!  Please stay safe!!

This makes me think of a problem in Baton Rouge right now, where a developer wants to build an apartment complex in the middle of a neighborhood such as yours.  Of course, anything over two stories would ruin the ambiance of the area. 

Luckily, the neighborhood banded together and forced concessions on the part of the developer without any violence.  It's not over yet, but looks like it will end well.

My money is on a developer, but you can't rule out a kook or twisted kid.  I think a neighborhood meeting is in order ASAP.  There are surely some attorneys and others in the area who can look into a property sales/bids, or find out if there is anyone with a history of arson living in the area. 

Keep us posted.

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