AP, Oct. 31, 2008
Vigilance by fire officials and volunteers appears to have kept the number of arsons low in Detroit on the night before Halloween, which had become notorious as “Devil’s Night” in years past.
Mayoral spokesman Daniel Cherrin said 47 of the 65 fires reported Thursday and early Friday were suspicious. The total reported was consistent with last year. Two people died in what is believed to be an accidental house fire, Cherrin said.
With large volunteer anti-arson campaigns in recent years, and the day before Halloween renamed Angels’ Night, just 147 fires were reported on those three days last year.
About 35,000 volunteers had signed up with the city for this year’s Angels’ Night.
The city that used to burn on the night before Halloween as mischief-makers torched abandoned buildings has largely doused its Devil’s Night by mobilizing tens of thousands of citizens and law-enforcement personnel each year to patrol city neighborhoods.
“It’s unfortunate of course that we have to do this, but this is the hand we’re dealt,” said Luther Keith, executive director of ARISE Detroit!, a coalition of community groups hoping to keep Detroit safe from fires and vandalism around Halloween.
At its peak in 1984, 810 fires were reported in Detroit from Oct. 29 to 31, fueled by, among other things, Devil’s Night’s growing notoriety and the city’s large number of abandoned buildings.
But the number of blazes has dropped—147 fires were reported last year for the three days ending Oct. 31, up from the 113 reported in 2006 and 121 in 2005.
That’s in part thanks to volunteers and law enforcement officials who patrol neighborhoods and monitor abandoned buildings starting the night of Oct. 29, part of what has been called Angels’ Night since the 1990s.
This year, officials worry that the national foreclosure crisis, and a spate of vacant homes left in its wake, could be tempting targets for arsonists. Detroit ranked as the 14th hardest-hit metropolitan area in the third quarter of this year by foreclosure listing service RealtyTrac Inc.
About 35,000 volunteers have signed up with the city for this year’s Angels’ Night, and about 50,000 people will volunteer, said Daniel Cherrin, a spokesman for Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. The city also imposes a youth curfew and takes other preventative measures.