The Mira Mesa Arsonist: How Surveillance Cameras Help Keep Communities Safe


March 11, 2022

In the early morning of January 3, residents of a Mira Mesa, CA apartment complex were awoken by loud booms. A peek outside quickly explained why – a row of cars was fully ablaze. But this was no accidental fire. Investigators soon determined that it had been deliberately set – and that other recent fires in the area had also been arson. Even just an hour later that same morning, the scene was repeated at another nearby apartment complex.

For several weeks, a suspected serial arsonist had been setting fires to upwards of 33 vehicles and eluding authorities. It seems none of the locations the arsonist has struck have had sufficient security cameras to help so far in identifying those responsible for these seemingly random attacks, and citizens in Mira Mesa have begun asking why. 

“Why do we not have freaking cameras?” one victim asked. “That’s so ridiculous. I don’t understand it.”

What difference could more significant video surveillance and CCTV make on a situation like this and on public safety as a whole?


How to Reduce Crime

CCTV has been slow to be accepted by the United States but has become quite common and embraced in other parts of the world over the last several decades already.

  • In the UK, there are approximately 5.2 million surveillance cameras, or 1 camera per every 13 people, leading to an average rate of 13% decline in crime in areas with CCTV compared to areas without. 

For the handful (and growing) number of American cities that have implemented a comprehensive system of surveillance cameras, the return on the investment has already proven to be more than worthwhile. Orange County, NJ reported a 50% drop in crimes of all types. A community group in Baltimore, MD recently adopted private crime surveillance cameras after both a robbery and carjacking in broad daylight shook the nerves of the neighborhoods. 

“It’s a way to be able to cooperate, and the police can look at these cameras and see if there’s something on it and you don’t really have to put yourself in the game, so to speak,” a member of the community safety patrol group said.

Another Option

Perhaps a more lowkey, volunteer-basis sounds a little better to you? Towards the end of 2021 and into 2022, Newtown, CT began an initiative between its citizens and their police force to create a registered database of confidential information only to be used in the event of a public crime. This database would center around who to contact depending on things like what external camera angles may be most useful to an investigation in the area. That way, the private commercial business- or residential homeowner still has full control over their private security systems, but they can be more efficiently utilized when needed for investigations. 

CCTVs Work!

Prevention of crime may be a debatable number to estimate, but there is certainly hard evidence proving that security cameras are one of the most useful tools in investigations of crime. On average, 65% of cases are aided by CCTV – provided that cameras were present at the scene of the crime in the first place. 

What About Mira Mesa?

With so many innocent victims affected by losing their vehicles and belongings that they depend on daily, many are left wondering what could have been done differently if more significant video surveillance and CCTV systems were in place. Would this have prevented the arsonist from getting away with their crimes thus far? We may never know for sure, but the odds certainly would’ve been much more in the community’s favor to put a stop to this villainy.


How You and Access Professional Systems Can Help

The Mira Mesa Arsonist is still at large, and the city tensely waits for an arrest. In the meantime, many communities around the US have begun proactively taking measures to better ensure the safety of their people. From apartment property managers to shop owners and local residences, it’s never too late to change the trajectory of local crime-solving with a little help from both you and the pros.

If you’re concerned about safety in your area and want to make sure everything possible is done to protect your community, contact APS today. We can help you install high-quality video surveillance systems that will give you peace of mind knowing that your community is being kept safe. 


If you or someone you know has any information or tips about these arson attacks, please contact the Metro Arson Strike Team (MAST) at 619.236.6815 or anonymously call Crime Stoppers at 858.580.8477


We look forward to hearing from you!