An arson expert predicts a male working alone or in a group between the age of 15 and 21 is behind a spate of car fires in Ballarat.
Six cars have been set alight in Soldiers Hill in two weeks. Eight cars have been torched in the area since January.
Ballarat Inspector Dan Davison said police were investigating the series of fires that happen overnight and are 'random' in the way they are lit. He said it does not appear the vehicles are being stolen prior to being torched.
Monash University criminologist Dr Paul Read has worked with Victoria Police and Crime Stoppers since Black Saturday profiling arsonists and building awareness to encourage reporting of of arson in local communities.
Dr Read said the series of fires in Soldiers Hill was unusual as commonly 'joy rides' in stolen cars were associated with car fires by 'mischievous' youth.
"Joy rides are not happening in this set of fires so it is more the lighting of the fire than the stealing of the car that is exciting," he said.
Around 90 per cent of people who commit arson are male and 50 per cent are under the age of 21, according to Dr Read.
He said usual motives for car fires were expressive, insurance fraud or hiding evidence, but characteristics of the incidents in Soldiers Hill did not fit the latter two motives.
"We know 50 per cent of fire lighters are under the age of 21. If we are looking at kids there are four different types of fire lighters," he said.
"There are expressive fire lighters - that's angry, emotional, often suicidal and kids who may have problems at school academically. There is a group that have developmental disorders. Sometimes children have a fascination with fire. In both cases they don't necessarily want to do harm but they are excited by fire.
Joy rides are not happening in this set of fires so it is more the lighting of the fire than the stealing of the car that is exciting.Dr Paul Read, arson expert
"There is one group that is related to sexual abuse and neglect and a fourth group that want to do as much damage as possible and potentially harm people."
Inspector Davison said police were targeting the Soldiers Hill area with extra patrols and resources.
"Victoria Police is taking this matter extremely seriously and we are stepping up our patrol efforts," he said at a press conference on Wednesday.
"All our investigation teams across the division are working tirelessly to try to resolve the matter as swiftly as we can."
Crime Statistics Agency data shows Ballarat is one of the top five areas in Victoria for arson, along with LaTrobe.
Dr Read said it would be beneficial for Ballarat police to meet with the Gippsland Arson Prevention Program to understand how the team has had success preventing arson in LaTrobe.
Victoria Police, CFA, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, HVP Plantations, local councils and power generators work collaboratively to prevent arson under the Gippsland program.
Contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 if you can provide information to assist police.