Detroit's devil night has a chilling past

by Jacob Rogers
Guest Writer

The commemoration of Devil’s Night on Oct. 30 dates back to the 1940s, and this night before Halloween is known traditionally as a time for teenagers to engage in minor pranks or petty crimes.

Photo via Times

Photo via Times

Originally known as “Mischief Night” around the country according to Time Magazine, what was originally a silly night filled with pranks turned into a dangerous night in Detroit in 1984, when 297 fires were lit. Beginning in 1986, 5,000 citizens of Detroit stepped forward and patrolled the streets on Devil’s Night for suspicious activity. Since 1995, the number of citizens who patrol the streets from 6 p.m. to midnight has nearly doubled. Not only has the amount of citizens who patrol the streets grown, but the name of the night has been changed in Detroit from Devil’s Night to Angel’s Night, with patrols and activities taking place from Oct. 29-31.

Photo via Detroit Ghetto

Photo via Detroit Ghetto

A similar accident occurred on Oct. 30 1996, when pranksters set off between 200 and 300 arsenic fires in inner-city neighborhoods, which according to a New York Times article left a 1-year-old girl dead and four others injured after fire was set to an apartment complex. More than 300 teenagers were arrested for violating curfew.

After this night, city officials cracked down on the violence by strengthening the police and firefighting forces, and imposing a dusk-to-dawn ordinance for anyone under the age of 17, which is still in effect today.

In a 2015 Detroit Free Press article, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said that every year he calls for volunteers to patrol the streets, but that he hopes that one day soon, citizens patrolling the streets will not be necessary.