Editorial: Volunteers open fireworks to broad audience

The Detroit News
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Tonight is one of the best nights of the year in Detroit. When the Ford Fireworks begin exploding at dusk, the city’s downtown and riverfront will be filled with hundreds of thousands of revelers watching what well may be the best display of its kind in the country.

And thanks to the commitment of some first-rate corporate and civic citizens, as well as the Detroit Police Department, more young Detroiters will be on the riverfront to watch the display.

In a repeat of a highly successful effort last year, the police will be relying on volunteers drafted from the Angel’s Night arson-fighting initiative to keep the riverfront safe and enjoyable for everyone.

The volunteers wearing reflective green vests won’t be there to make arrests; they’ll be assisting police in crowd control and helping watch for potential problems, as well as providing assistance to visitors.

More than 125 angels have signed up to help manage the riverfront crowds, both for the fireworks and the concurrent River Days festival.

Last year, their efforts helped accomplish the goal of zero arrests downtown on fireworks night. Previous years, police rounded up an average of 150 children and teens who were violating curfew.

As he did last year, Police Chief James Craig is enforcing a 10 p.m. curfew for unsupervised minors only in the downtown footprint. That has helped ease resentment that the entire city was under lockdown so a largely suburban crowd could enjoy the fireworks.

The volunteer patrols are supported by donations and other assistance from the Downtown Detroit Partnership, Strategic Staffing Solutions, Black Family Development, the Skillman Foundation and Ford Motor Co. Fund.

In addition, many of those same organizations are backing an effort by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy to bring Detroit’s top students downtown to enjoy the fireworks. The conservancy, which hosts River Days, gave principals at public, private and charter schools throughout the city “golden tickets” to reward good classroom work. The tickets will get the students and their chaperones into the West Riverfront Park, where they will enjoy a picnic and entertainment throughout the evening.

Detroit kids enjoying the fireworks in a safe, pleasant setting will be a sharp contrast to the former sights of children being loaded into paddy wagons and buses and hauled off to police precincts.

If the effort works tonight as well as it did last year, the Ford Fireworks will be safe and open to a broader audience that includes both city residents and suburbanites.

Pulling the effort together didn’t take all that much work, aside from a commitment from Craig and the support of a few civic-minded organizations.

It’s how things should work in Detroit, and proof that they can.

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