Detroiters gear up for treats; others keep an eye out

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

An estimated 6,000 volunteers geared up throughout the city to ensure the night that once saw hundreds of deliberately set fires rage on Halloween Eve remained a sordid, fading memory.

It’s unknown if this year will match the drastic reduction of arsons compared to the bad old days of the '70s, '80s and early '90s, when the tradition of “Devil’s Night” meant 500 to 800 arsons on Oct. 30. City officials were not expected to release the number of fires on Sunday and Monday until Tuesday when the data was verified, but John Roach, a spokesman for Mayor Mike Duggan, said late Monday that fires were "slightly better than last year at this time," citing Fire Commissioner Eric Jones.

Jones could not immediately be reached for comment.

Many credit the now 23-year-old tradition of Angels’ Night, when thousands of residents and others volunteer to patrol the streets for a three-day period leading to Halloween. Last year, Detroit reported 59 fires during the Angels’ Night campaign, roughly half the number of fires in 2014. In a typical 24-hour period, firefighters respond to an average of eight structure fires.

“I can’t even remember when there was a fire in my neighborhood,’  said Annie Green of Franklin Park, who’s lived in the area for more than 40 years. As always, she volunteered to serve food, donated by a local restaurant, to the volunteer residents who patrolled the area.

Still, Green and other volunteers said the tradition of Angels’ Night should remain. “It’s a great way to support the community and as long as the children have activities, there’s a lot of good that happens.”

At the westside Don Bosco Community Resource Center, hundreds streamed into the gymnasium, creating a festive atmosphere. Keith Reid and his wife Yvette Reid continued their years-long tradition of traveling from their Brownstown Township home to patrol Keith Reid’s old neighborhood all three nights of the Angels’ Night campaign.

“It’s been a long time since I saw a fire,” during Angels’ Night, said Keith Reid. Another volunteer, Mark Gray, who has participated in every Angels' Night campaign said “every year has gotten better.” And on Sunday night, there were no fires in the area, Gray said.

Councilman Gabe Leland, who represents the westside District 7, said preliminary information for Sunday night indicated the number of fires “was nothing out of the ordinary”, adding it was preliminary information.

Beyond the volunteer patrols, trick-or-treat events are planned for each of the city’s 11 police precincts and three fire stations on Halloween. There also will be a haunted park at Varier Park, 15639 Thatcher, near West Outer Drive and West McNichols Road, and a Halloween Extravaganza at Rouge Park’s Brennan Pool.

On the east side, Dominca Sheridan was finishing up her patrol and said she saw one fire engine with sirens blaring but no actual fire.

This was Sheridan’s first year volunteering patrolling. Her 11-year-son was with her aunt's at the local police precinct, where there were activities and some of his friends.

“You never know what happens if we stop,” the Angels' Night campaign in Detroit, Sheridan said, as she checked in for the night at the Farwell Recreation Center on East Outer Drive.

There will be a curfew in effect for youths 15 and younger from 8 p.m. Tuesday until 6 a.m. Wednesday; for those 16 and 17 years old, the curfew is from 9 p.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Werdnesday. Minors who violate curfew will be ticketed and held until parents or guardians can pick them up. Parents and guardians may also be ticketed.

An ordinance restricts adults 18 and older from dispensing gasoline into portable containers between now and 11:59 p.m. Oct. 31 except for emergencies.

Twitter: @LouisAguilar_DN