With new arson investigator, Buncombe County Sheriff's Office sees increase in arrests

BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) — A new investigative position is showing results in Buncombe County.

The Buncombe County Sheriff's Office says on Nov. 1, 2020, Detective William Small took on the role of Arson Investigator in the Criminal Investigations Division of the sheriff's office. In the time since, the sheriff's office says the number of arson arrests has increased to 33% of cases, compared to just 7% in the year prior to Detective Small's assignment.

"The increased capacity this position provides, investment in technology, a strengthened partnership with the Fire Marshal’s Office, and the dedication of Detective Small has made a difference in arrest rates," the sheriff's office said in a press release.

Officials say the department conducted 20 arson investigations from Nov. 1, 2019 to Nov. 1, 2020, with five investigations being determined “unfounded," meaning the fire was either accidental or unintentional. Of the remaining 15 cases, officials say 12 were closed by “leads exhausted,” one was closed with the victim refusing to cooperate, one remains an open investigation and just one led to an arrest.