Never in a million years would I have ever imagined a serial arsonist among us in the District of Columbia, traveling like a thief in the night and leaving multitudes of destroyed homes in his wake. But oops—he could be here, there, or anywhere. So much emphasis has been placed on what we should do if we should ever encounter the person identified in your article (“Heat of the Night,” 2/20). We have to ask ourselves if the drawing is an actual composite of the suspect or just another person wearing a disguise. If we were to limit our focus to this single drawing, we could be overlooking other possibilities. The drawing says a couple of things. But who is to say that there is not more to what the eyes see?

What do we do now? What can each one of us do to protect our homes, whether we rent an apartment or own a house? It would be nice if the District of Columbia government would provide real expert advice to the residents of our city on what steps we can take to help eliminate problems and would provide clarity on what we should look for in a potential arsonist. Taking the wait-and-see approach does not help and could prove costly. Too much has happened under our noses already.

There are some people who are so self-centered and selfish enough to think that they do not need to do anything but pay taxes and die as they continue their efforts in turning a blind eye to reality. However, this is not the time to sit and do nothing, because everything that has happened has affected or will eventually affect each and every one of us in the long run. It is time for all of us to join forces and be more proactive, taking a few more minutes each day to monitor our surroundings more closely. Surely the police and the fire departments are doing whatever they can do, but they have their own limits, in terms of available manpower. They can’t be on every street corner at every moment of the day, because arson isn’t the only crime they have to deal with.

Aside from the renters and homeowners, what about the landlords who own the rental properties? While many tenants continue to complain to some landlords about security and safety concerns on the premises, their demands are met with cookie-cutter responses and are often left unanswered. Meanwhile, the premises continue to be a magnet for all sorts of problems. When will landlords finally get it? When will they finally understand the importance of having more than just a receptionist or front-door clerk with a damn phone receiver in his hand? Yes, it’s true that security costs, but at least the building has a better chance of remaining flame-free and intact. Anytime a building becomes easily accessible, it is at an increased risk of attracting unwanted guests and trespassers. On the other hand, some landlords have tunnel vision and will rent an apartment to anyone. There should be a way to screen potential tenants. Landlords should in a sense, look beyond the applicant’s purse strings and checkbooks. Dollars and cents don’t make a stable tenant, and bad tenants are hard to evict.

It was very sad to read all the tragic stories of families losing loved ones, being displaced, and suffering hardships from the losses they incur, such as precious possessions and the roofs over their heads. The most precious possessions of all are loved ones’ lives. When the daily newspapers stop the interviews and the cameras are gone, the surviving victims are forced to find a way to survive on their own.

The resources in our city are limited, and the victims have to piece their lives back together as best they know how. In essence, there should be a fund in the District of Columbia that provides adequate funding for victims, without the added frustration of mountains of paperwork. These families need more than sympathy; they need continuous help. The question is who will cut through the red tape and get the job done. To solve the case, we need a mixture of America’s Most Wanted and the power of citizens in larger numbers.

Southwest