Following an arrest initially made in May of 2012, the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) is once again crediting the agency's arson dog, "Blaze," with a successful conviction. Darren Mitchell Lavender, aged 47 of Mobile, pleaded guilty to Reckless Burning on November 29 in Mobile County District Court. The man was fined $1,000 and sentenced to 10 days in jail.
The AFC's bloodhound was requested earlier this year by Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries officials to assist in locating Lavender when he had evaded arrest by game wardens. Lavender set three fires as a diversion to aid his escape. Blaze was scented off evidence found at the scene, and tracking the scent, placed the suspect at the scene of the fires.
According to AFC Law Enforcement Chief Craig Hill, canines have been used in law enforcement for years to locate evidence and people. As with fingerprints, each person has a unique scent. Blaze's ability to track a human scent has added a whole new dimension to the agency's law enforcement capabilities.
The Alabama Forestry Commission is committed to reducing the number of forestry-related crimes that occur each year across the state. These crimes generate losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to landowners, the timber industry, and Alabama's economy. The AFC provides a Wildland Arson/Forest Crimes Hotline so that citizens can call and report wildland arson, theft of timber, or vandalism and theft of harvesting equipment.
This toll-free number is (800) 222-2927. Any information provided is confidential and the caller remains anonymous.
INFORMATION SOURCE: Alabama Forestry Commission
1720 Valley View Drive