Police and firefighters were on alert Tuesday, a curfew was in place and patrols by residents toting fire extinguishers were organized for Tuesday's Devil's Night, Detroit's annual pre-Halloween arson rampage. "I'm afraid. It's like you're a prisoner in your own house. I wouldn't go out," said Mildred Koyton, 67.
Koyton said that every Devil's Night she paces from her front door to the back, ready to protect her two-story home next to an empty lot where a house burned two years ago.
"All you can do is hope for the best," Koyton said. "But sometimes faith can be weakened when you see so much going on."
Last year, the mayor's office reported 223 fires from Oct. 29 to Oct. 31, 115 of those on Devil's Night, the night before Halloween. There are about 60 fires on a normal night in Detroit.
The worst Devil's Night was in 1984, when 810 fires set during the three-day rampage left dozens of families homeless.
Police arrested 154 youths Monday night for violating the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, compared with 160 arrested during the first night of the curfew last year, said police spokesman Officer John Leavens. The curfew is for people under age 19.
In one effort to keep would-be firebugs at home, the Southeast Michigan Cable Association this year decided to unscramble TV signals to non-subscribers. That made available Tuesday night's cable offerings In Country with Bruce Willis, Gung Ho with Michael Keaton and The Muppets Take Manhattan.
To reduce the number of targets, the city knocked down about 5,000 abandoned homes during the fiscal year from July 1, 1989, to June 30, according to the latest city records available.
Mayor Coleman A. Young last week unveiled a "My Heart Is with Detroit" campaign that urged residents to take pride in the city and increase the number of anti-arson patrols.
He said more than 35,000 residents and city workers volunteered, many wielding fire extinguishers as they walked their streets and alleys.