To create a fire, you need three elements: fuel, heat and oxygen. To catch an arsonist, you need three elements: expertise, collaboration and determination.

Xpera Risk Mitigation & Investigation (Xpera) employed these three attributes to successfully thwart and help arrest an arsonist who was repeatedly targeting a daycare centre in Laval, Quebec.

Aerial view of a neighbourhood

The Situation

The operator and employees of a daycare centre in the Laval, Quebec, neighbourhood of Sainte- Dorothée, were feeling uneasy. In August and then October someone had tried to light the outside of their building on fire.

The August attempt prompted the daycare owner to contact the Laval Police. An investigation was conducted but unfortunately a suspect was not arrested.

CCTV camera on a wall

October 29 - November 4: Taking Action

After the second arson attempt in October, and following strong suggestions from ClaimsPro's claims adjuster, Alex Magny, the daycare owner decided to step up their response and have security cameras installed on the exterior of their building. To help ensure the installation occurred without incident, the ClaimsPro claims adjuster contacted Xpera to provide site security. Xpera's mandate was to protect the site from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am every day until the daycare had completed installation of security cameras. Five days later, the installation was complete and Xpera's role in this aspect of the matter was complete.

November 6: A Sighting

The installation of the security cameras proved to be good timing. Two days after the job was complete the arsonist struck again. At approximately 7:00 PM the perpetrator attempted to light the building on fire with a gasoline bottle. They failed to do so but the surveillance cameras captured the arsonist's every move. The camera feed showed the individual approaching with small, careful steps and an incendiary object in hand. The individual then placed the item at the base of the building, set it on fire and fled into the wooded area located between the daycare and an elementary school park.

Unfortunately, the person's face couldn't be seen. In an effort to gain further insight into who the perpetrator might be, on November 18, the Laval Police released the surveillance footage and asked for the public's help in identifying the suspect. No calls were received. The culprit remained unidentified.

This third arson attempt prompted the daycare owner and the ClaimsPro claims adjuster to increase their vigilance. It would take a coordinated effort. The claims adjuster persuaded the daycare owner to rehire Xpera. The two parties consulted with Xpera. Together it was agreed that additional measures needed to be taken to keep the children and staff at the daycare safe, provide parents with peace of mind and, most importantly, apprehend the arsonist.

Employee reviewing CCTV footage

November 8: The Plan

The two investigators for Xpera, former police officers with over 25 years of law enforcement experience each, and the insurance adjuster decided to change the daily security shifts during the week, providing them the opportunity to double security and investigator staff on site during the weekends. Not only would this be more cost effective for the client who had a limited budget, but the investigators' analysis also showed there was a higher chance that the arsonist would strike on a weekend versus a weekday.

Going forward, during the week, Xpera would provide one security guard. This person would be stationed inside the daycare, between 6:00 PM and 2:00 AM, viewing the live feed from the security cameras. On the weekend it was agreed that there would be additional staff in the form of investigators, on the premises. Between 5:00 PM and 11:00 PM, they would patrol the exterior of the building. And from 5:00 PM to 2:00 AM, an investigator would be inside the daycare watching the live feed from the security cameras.

With the plan established the next step was to fully brief the investigators and security personnel. All members of the team were shown the video of the suspect and informed of any pertinent details. Various scenarios that could play out were discussed and appropriate contingencies were planned accordingly. Each contingency was “walked through” to ensure the team was ready for anything that could happen. The final piece of the preparation was assigning a point person from Xpera to be the liaison with the Laval Police, ready to inform them of any developments in the case. With many of the investigators at Xpera being former law enforcement officers, there was an immediate spirit of collaboration and clarity in purpose with this arrangement.

security guard with flashlight looking at something from a distance

November 20: The Capture

12 days went by without a return visit by the arsonist until the evening of November 20. At 6:23 PM a shadowy figure was spotted scurrying from the woods. The Xpera lead investigator, who had been monitoring the exterior perimeter, quickly assessed the suspect's clothing, height, stance and gait and confirmed it was the same individual who had been captured on video a few weeks earlier.

The lead investigator immediately alerted the second investigator who was inside the daycare watching the live feed from the security cameras. Meanwhile the second investigator remained in place watching the live feed of the suspect who was now at the exterior wall of the daycare. The perpetrator quickly lit an incendiary object and sprinted back into the darken woods. While the second investigator completed an accurate description of the arsonist's clothing and detailed which way they fled to the 911 operator, the lead investigator rushed to the fire, kicking the incendiary object into the parking lot. They then ran into the daycare to get a bucket of water, returned and put out the fire. Minutes later, a few blocks away, the Laval Police intercepted and apprehended the arsonist.

The Wrap

The apprehension of the arsonist did not occur due to happenstance. It was the direct result of the hours of planning, the selection of the appropriate personnel, well-honed investigative instincts, and the diligence with which the Xpera investigators prepared for contingencies and coordinated efforts while remaining respectful of the client's budget and the need to return to business as usual.

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