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Deliberate firesetting: hotspot schools as arenas and preventive actors

Journal article
Authors Sofia Persson
Sara Uhnoo
Published in Nordic Journal of Criminology
Volume 20
Issue 2
Pages 176-195
ISSN 2578-983X
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Pages 176-195
Language en
Keywords Juvenile firesetting; crime prevention; lower secondary schools; residential segregation; inequality
Subject categories Sociology


Firesetting is one of the crime acts most representative of youth crime, and schools are among the buildings most often targeted, causing significant social, material and economic damage. This study examines schools as arenas with particular exposure to deliberate firesetting and as actors interpreting and utilizing their organizational scope to pre- vent school fires. The focus on school organizations is unique and urgently needed in research on juvenile firesetting, given their pivotal but under-researched role in crime prevention. The study is based on an in-depth analysis of data (interviews, documents and official registry data) related to 20 fire-exposed lower secondary schools in two major Swedish cities. These schools mobilized a broad repertoire of social, situational and structural measures. Interviewed school personnel per- ceived and responded to firesetting in relation to the institutional school setting, group dynamics, individual characteristics and local context. The schools were generally located in socio-economically disadvantaged areas and faced comprehensive educational and social challenges. The firesetting problem – and paradoxically some well- intentioned preventive efforts – risk adding further dimensions to school segregation and inequality, potentially increasing stigmatization and marginalization.

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