Conklin introduces bill to create statewide arsonist registry

Megan’s Law-type database would aid investigators, help firefighters

HARRISBURG, July 19 – State Rep. Scott Conklin today introduced legislation that would establish a statewide arsonist registry to bolster arson investigations and better protect residents and first responders.

Conklin, D-Centre, said he introduced H.B.1591 – which would create a registry for convicted arsonists similar to Megan’s Law – to help the state crack down on a crime that can have tragic consequences.

“Arson costs communities millions in property damage, but that’s nothing compared to the human toll,” Conklin said. “Whether it’s motivated by revenge, fraud, destruction of evidence, pyromania or other reasons, arson claims lives, destroys families and endangers first responders.

“Having a statewide registry would help officials determine whether any convicted arsonists live or work nearby the site of a fire under investigation, and, if so, whether their prior crimes show similar patterns. Crimes like arson are rarely witnessed, so a database to rule in – or out – potential suspects would be a helpful tool in bringing offenders to justice.”

Conklin said his legislation was partly inspired by the tragic death of Roy Westover, a Westover Area Volunteer Fire Co. firefighter who suffered a fatal heart attack at age 41 after battling a blaze suspected to be arson.

“Every arson fire is an unnecessary danger, not just to our communities but to our brave first responders, Conklin said. "We owe it to them to reduce their on-the-job risks as much as possible, and creating this registry is one way we can do that.”

Under Conklin’s legislation, convicted arsonists would be required to register their name, Social Security number and home address with local authorities. Failure to comply would result in fines and possible jail time.

Conklin introduced a previous version of the bill – which is now in committee– during the 2019-20 legislative session.