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Updated: Thursday, 29 Oct 2009, 3:51 PM EDT

Published : Thursday, 29 Oct 2009, 3:45 PM EDT


Associated Press Writer

DETROIT (AP) – Keeping young people off city streets is part of Detroit’s strategy to prevent hundreds of vacant, abandoned and foreclosed homes from being burned over the three-night period around Halloween known as Angels’ Night.

Police will enforce a curfew for youth under age 18 beginning at 10 p.m. Thursday. But a stricter emergency ordinance that begins at 6 p.m. Friday is aimed at making sure they stay home.

Curfews on Halloween start at 10 p.m.

A minor found on “any public street, sidewalk, alley, park, playground, vacant lot or any other unsupervised outdoor public place, or in any arcade, billiard or pool hall, bowling alley, restaurant, theatre, or place of amusement or entertainment” that night is subject to being detained by police and fined, Mayor Dave Bing’s office said in a release.

In past years, violators were held by police until picked up by parents or guardians.

“We spend too many resources baby-sitting kids, and if we can limit that, then the police officers can be out doing other things,” former Deputy Police Chief Gary Brown said. “I thought that was just a waste of valuable resources.”

Brown was among nine of 18 Detroit City Council candidates who joined Bing on Wednesday in the city’s annual anti-arson effort. Five incumbents and 13 challengers are campaigning for the nine open council seats heading into Tuesday’s general election.

Bing, seeking re-election against challenger Tom Barrow, asked council candidates to set aside political differences and join the army of volunteers set to patrol Detroit neighborhoods Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

“We’re asking our angels to come out this weekend to help us prevent anything negative as it relates to fires in our city,” Bing said of the expected 50,000 volunteers involved in the campaign.

In Detroit, Oct. 30 traditionally had been called Devils’ Night, highlighted by mischief and pranks. But in the 1980s, arsonists used the Halloween period to set fires to vacant houses and buildings throughout Detroit. Volunteer patrols have decreased the number of fires, which topped 800 in 1984.

The Angels’ Night campaign was started in 1996.

But Detroit’s current urban landscape lends itself to more potential targets for arsonists, especially with recent waves of home foreclosures due to job cuts amid the auto industry collapse. Tens of thousands of houses and buildings stand empty or abandoned. In some neighborhoods, vacant houses outnumber occupied ones.

“Some of them already have been burned and they are standing between occupied dwellings, so that makes them more dangerous,” said Councilman Kwame Kenyatta, who joined Bing on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, 11 vacant houses were burned in one east side neighborhood.

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