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Church Fires Fewer

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RALEIGH — Church fires are down and arrests ofarsonists are up. That's according to a report a Federal task forcereleased Sunday.In the past two and a half years, nearly 200 suspects have been arrestedin 150 church burnings.

President Clinton formed the task force because the rash of fires seemed to target many black churches, although black churches were notthe majority of those set on fire.

In many instances, the motive for the blaze was arson rather thanracism. But no matter the motive, the churches' congregations werestunned and saddened, and in many instances had to dig deep to payfor rebuilding.

As the reports of church burnings grew, so did the call for action,especially on the part of the federal government. It wasanswered with a national church arson task force. To date, 199 suspectshave been rounded up in connection with 150 church fires.

Rev. Frank White said he is glad the president took the initiative toform the task force to check into the problems. White and hiscongregation raised money to rebuild several of the burned churches.White says despite the negative nature of these crimes something positivehappened, in that people came together.

Since the arson task force began a year ago, there have beenmore than 400 investigations into arsons and bombings of churches.And Congress has passed legislation doubling thepenalty for burning churches.

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