Each year, California's wilderness areas, homes and businesses are threatened by deadly fires, many of which are started by arson. Firefighters have a tough enough job managing natural forest fires, given California's climate and Santa Ana winds. As a federal prosecutor, Schiff handled many arson cases and saw the incalculable damage caused by these criminals. Intentionally set fires destroy homes, precious natural resources and take the lives of innocent victims, including our brave firefighters on the front lines of public safety. Arsons are among the most difficult crimes to investigate because the crime scene is destroyed by the ensuing fire, and as a result law enforcement agencies clear less than 20 percent of arson cases by arrest.
For this reason, Schiff co-authored the Managing Arson Through Criminal History (MATCH) Act of 2009, along with Congresswoman Mary Bono (R-CA), to establish a national database to track convicted arsonists. The legislation recognizes that arson is a crime with high recidivism rates, and seeks to ensure that firefighters and public safety officers are aware of criminal arsonists living in their region. The national database would only provide access to law enforcement and fire investigators, to protect the privacy of individuals that have served their sentences, however it would ensure that law enforcement has access to fingerprints and photographs of convicted arsonists should they be involved in a future arson. The MATCH Act passed the House on a voice vote, but it did not clear the Senate in time. Schiff will continue to work on this issue in 112th Congress.