The National Church Arson Task Force issued its fourth report to the President today, highlighting statistics that indicate that the number of arsons at houses of worship continues to decline. Task Force officials attribute their success, in part, to continued vigilance, well-publicized arrests and ongoing prevention efforts. In the year 1996, when the Task Force was created, there were 297 arsons, bombings or attempted bombings at our nation's houses of worship. In 1997, that number dropped to 209 incidents; in 1998 there were 165 incidents; and in 1999 there were 140. These data represent a 53% decrease in the rate of such incidents between 1996 and 1999. This downward trend continues into the year 2000. As of August 15, 2000, there were 82 incidents. The Task Force's arrest rate of 36.2% continues to be more than twice the national average for arson cases. To date, 305 defendants have been convicted in connection with 224 arsons or bombings. "Four years ago, President Clinton declared church arsons a national priority and directed his Administration to investigate and prosecute the arsonists, rebuild burned churches and prevent additional fires," said James E. Johnson, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement, and co-chair of the Task Force. "Since 1996, the NCATF arrest rate is more than double the national solve rate for all arsons, and more than 945 church fires have been investigated. The investigators, prosecutors and state and local authorities should be highly commended for their vigor and compassion in solving these horrific crimes."