A string of apparent arson attacks that have hit construction sites for houses and apartments in Tama, western Tokyo, indicate that someone has a perverse desire to upset the incoming owners, an expert on criminal profiling said Monday.

“Houses under construction are a symbol of happiness and success,” said Masayuki Kiriu, a professor of criminal psychology at Toyo University.

“The fact that the culprit is targeting those houses possibly means that he or she is for some reason jealous of the success of the incoming owners,” he said.

Six suspicious fires have been reported across the city between Sept. 12 and last Saturday, all within an area with a 2-km radius. No injuries have been reported.

Police are investigating the fires as arson and increasing patrols and stakeouts in the neighborhood, said a National Police Agency spokesman, who added that the places targeted were all under construction.

Traces of oil were reportedly found near the scene of each crime.

Referring to a news report that said the arsonist broke into some of the dwellings and set them ablaze from inside, Kiriu said the culprit appears “obsessed” with burning them down.

The first fire took place in Tama’s Ichinomiya district on Sept. 12, the second in Hijirigaoka on the 14th, the third in Higashiteragata on the 16th, the fourth in Wada on the 17th, the fifth in Hijirigaoka last Friday and the sixth in Kaitori on Saturday, the spokesman said. All of the blazes started after midnight, except the last one, which broke out at around 9 p.m.

The shift in time is a sign of some kind of change in the culprit’s thinking, Kiriu said. The arsonist, he said, is probably keener than ever to dodge suspicion and may thus be adjusting tactics.

“So the culprit may no longer be after the houses under construction at all,” he said, warning residents nearby not to let their guard down.

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