Action News viewers assist in NJ arson arrest
BERLIN, N.J. - February 15, 2012 (WPVI) -- Police say they have charged a torch artist in connection with six blazes late last year in Berlin Township, New Jersey.
Police were working hard to find the man seen in surveillance video setting one of six different fires on the same day last December in or around the Home Depot on Route 73.
But the break in the case came after investigators reached out to Action News.
"Channel 6 answered the call, came out, and aired the video footage from the Home Depot store's security camera to the rear of the building," Berlin Township Police Chief Joseph Jackson said.
Chief Jackson says his department started receiving a string of tip calls after viewers saw the exclusive report on Action News.
Those tips led to the arrest of a 32-year-old man named Harry Watkins earlier this week.
During his interrogation, Watkins told investigators he had recently moved back to West Berlin after leaving the area five years ago.
That's when detectives asked him about several other fires at the same Home Depot in 2006.
"The subject then admitted to the fires from 2011, subsequently admitted to the fire from 2006 also," Chief Jackson said.
No injuries were reported from any of the fires, but there were people inside the Home Depot when Watkins allegedly tried setting the building on fire.
Investigators tell Action News that when they asked Watkins why he set those fires. His response was, 'I don't know.'
"When he got a chance to see something, he would just light it and continue on. It kind of scares you when an individual didn't have a reason to do it," Patrolman Dean Pumphrey said.
Between 2006 and 2011, the suspect lived in several place including South Philadelphia. Now, investigators are looking into the possibility of linking Watkins to suspicious fires in those locations, as well.
new jersey, camden county, arson, fire, crime, walter perez
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