DETROIT — A curfew for young people combined with a citywide mobilization campaign apparently helped to reduce the number of "Devil's Night" fires, city officials said Friday.
The mayor's office was still compiling figures, a spokesman said, but it appeared that about 120 fires were set Thursday night and Halloween morning--twice the number for an average day but fewer than the 206 fires set in the comparable 24-hour period last year.
Five suspected arsonists were arrested and 258 youths were apprehended Thursday night for violating a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew that is in effect through this morning. Another 250 youths were arrested Wednesday night when the curfew went into effect.
Bob Berg, an aide to Mayor Coleman Young, said the curfew for youths under age 18 as well as other arson-fighting tactics employed this Halloween season appeared to be working.
11,000 Patrol City
"We don't want to draw any definitive conclusions prematurely because we still have another night (Halloween) to go," Berg said. "But based on the observations of everybody in the field, it is obvious it was quieter than last year."
Besides the curfew, the mayor assigned 11,000 police officers and civilians to arson patrols.
The annual "Devil's Night" rampage attracted television crews from as far away as Japan.
"I covered it last year and I wanted to see what was going on this year," said Nobi Shigienoto, a television reporter for Asahi Television in Tokyo. "There's nothing like this (in Tokyo). Nothing like this at all."
Earlier in the week, some Detroit firefighters cashed in on the publicity by peddling souvenir T-shirts for $6 each. The navy blue shirts featured a drawing of the Renaissance Center surrounded by flames with the caption: "The Heat is On! Devil's Night 86."
A university newspaper's "Burn Down the House" contest to guess the number of blazes set in the city drew criticism from other student leaders.
The Michigan Journal at the University of Michigan-Dearborn said it would give 10 gallons of gasoline to the person who picked the correct number.
Student government Vice Presidents Grace Kennedy and Jeff Pulter called the contest irresponsible journalism. "Even though student newspapers are conceived to be a student voice, we assure you that in this instance it is not the case," they said.