The Section des incendies criminels (SIC) (arson squad) was created in 1967 after a wave of arson swept through the city. The culprit behind these crimes, a pawnbroker with ties to organized crime, was forcing his clients to set flame to their homes and business in order to defraud the insurance companies.
Since that eventful beginning, the mandate of the SIC has expanded considerably. Today it leads investigations into arson, fatal fires, explosions, explosive devices, suspicious packages and CBRN materials (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear).
To achieve its highly specialized mission, the SIC relies on a team of ten sergeant-detectives, an analyst and a clerk, all supervised by a lieutenant-detective. To solve difficult crimes, the team uses two crime scene trucks equipped with a variety of tools used to determine the causes and circumstances of fires.
At a crime scene, each investigator wears a “bunker suit,” a kind of overall that looks like a firefighter’s outfit and that protects the officers as they search in the debris left by flames or explosions.
SIC officers are all qualified by the ENPQ as “fire scene technicians” so they can take their own samples to send to the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale (LSJML) for testing.
The only full-time arson squad in Québec!
Although other police services in Québec have arson investigators in their ranks, the SIC is the only team that practises this specialty full time. It is often called on to share its expertise, by investigators from other police forces, the ENPQ, and even by trainees from abroad!
The SIC deals with from 900 to 1200 cases every year, each one starting with a crime scene to investigate. Once the modus operandi at the scene has been analysed, the investigators use all their knowledge and every investigation technique to identify the culprit behind the crime.
They also have to determine the suspect’s motives, which can vary from insurance fraud, intimidation or vengeance to vandalism, pyromania or even camouflaging another crime, such as homicide.
Arson often has serious repercussions for the public’s sense of security. It’s easy to understand why people would be shaken up by the loss of life caused by a wave of Molotov cocktails or the presence of a pyromaniac in their neighbourhood. That’s why the SIC has developed and maintained leading edge and widely recognized expertise.
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