Thousands Volunteers To Douse Detroit’s ‘Devil’s Night’ Tradition
DETROIT (AP) _ Hundreds of vacant buildings were razed so they couldn’t be set on fire and thousands volunteered to patrol the streets Monday for this year’s drive against the destructive Devil’s Night tradition.
``The primary thing is to keep the fires away, to protect lives and property,″ said Cliff Russell, a spokesman for Mayor Dennis Archer.
The night before Halloween has for years been celebrated as Devil’s Night in Detroit, a night of arson fires in trash piles and houses.
Devil’s Night fires peaked at 297 in 1985, but declined after then-Mayor Coleman Young initiated a major anti-arson campaign enlisting thousands of Detroiters to safeguard their city.
Late Sunday, firefighters reported 35 fires, short of the city’s daily average of 40 to 60 blazes.
This year, at least 25,000 volunteers signed up to patrol streets, a number similar to previous years during Young’s administration.
Juveniles were under a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.
One year ago, during Archer’s first year in office, fires increased again, up to 182.
``Things didn’t go very well last year. The mayor started work on this Nov. 1 last year,″ said city spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski.
The mayor joined the volunteer patrols on Sunday night.
``I didn’t see much of him last year, but it’s a great sign that he’s out and about this year,″ said Harold Hicks, a veteran of six Devil’s Night patrols.
Archer’s campaign hoped for 30,000 volunteers, because ``that’s around the number they had during the Coleman Young administration when they were so successful,″ Zdrodowski said.
The city also demolished more than 1,800 vacant buildings in the past two months, towed more than 2,000 abandoned cars and removed 190,000 discarded tires to keep them from being used as fuel.
This year’s campaign to extinguish Devil’s Night came amid something of an economic resurgence for Detroit. The city is experiencing the biggest housing boom since the 1950s, with plans to build a $235 million downtown ball park to be used by the Detroit Tigers.
In Camden, N.J., about 3,000 people volunteered to help in the city’s campaign to replace ``Mischief Night″ with ``Halloween Eve.″
``We can truly say it’s an entire community effort,″ said Mayor Arnold Webster.
The impoverished city of about 87,000 residents, across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, hoped to avoid a repeat of 1991 when 133 fires were reported in the pre-Halloween arson spree. Last year’s night before Halloween had four arson fires.