Car owners sideswiped by the economy have spurred a nationwide wave of arson and abandonment—last-ditch attempts to collect on insurance, the Wall Street Journal reports. Auto arson claims rose 6% nationally in 2008; in some particularly speculative states, the rate jumped as much as 18%. “Lots of desperate people out there,” said one Las Vegas detective who investigates the incidents.
“The economy is stretching people to the breaking point and some of them are willing to risk criminal conviction,” an insurance-industry rep said. “They look at this as their own personal stimulus package.” Though many offenders go uncaught, Las Vegas police seem to have homed in on their targets. “We see people with singed eyebrows and hands,” one cop there said. “Some of them still smell like gas.”