Pa. town's financial resources stretched by arsons

July 26, 2009 11:35:56 AM PDT
Since the beginning of last year in New Castle, arsonists have torched more than 50 homes, most of them vacant, in the old Rust Belt town of just 24,400 people. And with each new fire, the city's overtime budget and costs for demolishing damaged vacant homes is rising at a time when the cash-strapped city can hardly afford any extras.

Arsons have recently plagued many Rust Belt towns, including Flint, Mich., Pittsburgh and Coatesville. Some are hard-pressed to find the funding to cover the cost of fighting the problem.

And the costs do not end once the fires are put out. New Castle also pays to demolish the damaged homes - an average of $4,000 each.

The problems are familiar to Coatesville City Manager Harry Walker, who watched arsonists destroy 66 properties in a yearlong reign of terror in his eastern Pennsylvania town that began in February 2008. One person was killed. Police charged several suspects, but still have unsolved crimes.

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