Plainfield 12-Year-Old Charged With Setting 5 Hazelwood Drive Fires

Police say the youth has admitted to setting the fires and to other crimes; more details will be forthcoming in Tuesday press conference.

A 12-year-old boy was arrested Monday for setting a along Hazelwood Drive that terrorized neighbors and prompted many to buy motion-detection lights and video surveillance systems.

Chief John Konopek said the boy, a middle-school student who lives in the neighborhood, had been a suspect in the fires that occurred between Dec. 25 and Jan. 8. However, he wasn’t charged until police caught him breaking into a vehicle in the neighborhood and obtained his confession, he said.

“Very early in the investigation he was a suspect but we wanted to build a solid case against him,” Konopek said. “We wanted to keep our minds open in case it wasn’t him. … We wanted to draw him out and catch him in the act.”

Police had been doing surveillance in the area since January, when it became clear that someone was targeting unlocked cars in the 16000 block of Hazelwood and setting them on fire. In two cases, those cars were inside garages and did damage to the attached townhouses.

The boy acted by himself, but Konopek said he wasn’t certain of the motivation, nor did he know why the juvenile's family was not aware he was leaving the house at different times of the night to commit the crimes, which also included three car burglaries and two instances in which he spray-painted people’s homes.

The victims appear to be random and, in the arson and burglary cases, likely targeted because they left their vehicles unlocked and garage doors open, the chief said.

There will be more details forthcoming Tuesday, when Konopek holds a press conference to answer questions about the arrest.

The boy has been charged with five counts of arson, three counts of burglary to a motor vehicle and two counts of criminal damage to property. He’s being held in Will County’s River Valley Juvenile Justice Center in Joliet.

The five fires set over a three-week period of time – one on Christmas Day, one on New Year’s Eve and three on Jan. 8 – scared Hazelwood Drive residents, who feared an arsonist was at large and that their homes were potential targets. A neighborhood watch was formed, and residents began leaving their porch lights on and investing in motion detection lights and camera surveillance systems.

The fires stopped, but then the vehicle burglaries and vandalism started, Konopek said.

It’s clear the suspect has some emotional issues that drove him to commit these crimes, he said.

“He has had a troubled past,” he said. “We definitely want to get this kid some help. … It’s been my experience that when a juvenile is involved in setting fires (or committing other crimes at a young age) that we find out there were reasons behind it.”

Residents leaving notes on Plainfield Patch expressed relief that the police had finally made an arrest in the arson cases.

“Yes, I can finally get one full night of sleep!” Mike Bjorklund wrote. (Bjorklund is also a Plainfield Patch freelance writer.) “As pleased as I am with the work of the Plainfield Police Department in the apprehending of this juvenile, I am sad to learn that it was a 12-year-old.”

Lisa Morris, who lost two cars and had her garage damaged in the Christmas Day fire, said she is angered the boy’s family did not do more to teach their child or keep an eye on his activities and behavior.

“They need to know from me that they have all put my family and the other families that live on this street through hell, and forgive I will do for that child’s sake, but forget I will never!” Morris wrote.

Debg February 29, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Yes, I also would like to thank the Plainfield Police Department. Its nice to know I don't have to keep freaking out every night remembering if I locked my car or not. Also, as relieve as I am, it really saddens me that a 12 year old was responsible for this. What kind of life has this child had and what kinda of life is in for now.
Mike February 29, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Thank the Courts and the lawyers for the crimes today. If they would be harder on crime instead of catering to them in jail or prison which is like a resort, free clothes, best meals, never cold in winter, free medical and no real punishment like they did years ago. I lived near Statesville and remembering seeing the prisoners working in the fields and raising livestock and working on the side of the highways. No, today they have nothing to lose. What? You say they lose their freedom. When they don’t have to worry about shelter or food, freedom is not very high on their list.
MidwestGal February 29, 2012 at 11:14 PM
I am so glad you or your family were not physically hurt! I can tell you that too many parents stop parenting after the age of 2 for some reason and this is what happens. Parents need to supervise, teach and control their kids from birth to at least 18. Why society has to put up with this is beyond me! I have parents all over my neighborhood and street who sent their young kids out the door in the morning and don't see them until late...what on earth are they thinking? I guess their job is done. Heck, I also know lots of parents themselves are immature idiots themselves!
MidwestGal February 29, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Why would you ASSume this? I had "nothing" growing up and I would've never done this. I also had no involved parents and practically raised myself, yet I never commited a crime...ever!!!
MidwestGal February 29, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Parents, if you have middle or highschoolers...TALK to them. If you are doing a good job, they will talk about their lives, but also will talk about what the bad kids are up to. The bad kids are not the smartest - they talk and post things on Facebook about what they've done. I know of many pety "crimes" done in my neighborhood, but I PARENT my kid, I can not parent them all. It amazes me that the parents don't know what the kids are doing and where they are. Apple doesn't fall to far I guess.


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