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May 28, 1997

Urban Community Intervention to Prevent Halloween Arson—Detroit, Michigan, 1985-1996

JAMA. 1997;277(20):1587-1588. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540440021011

ARSON, the second leading cause of residential fire-associated deaths in the United States, accounts for approximately 700 deaths annually, destroys homes, and destabilizes neighborhoods.1-3 In Detroit, Michigan (1990 population: 1027 974), arson accounted for nearly half (46.3%) of all fire-related deaths since 1984.4 During the late 1970s, pre-Halloween pranks traditionally associated in some parts of the United States with the night of October 30 turned destructive in Detroit, with hundreds of fires set throughout the city.

By 1984, October 30 became known as "Devil's Night" and had evolved to 3 consecutive nights of arson on October 29-31; in that year, a record 810 fires were reported.5 In 1985, Detroit began a citywide intervention campaign against arson and vandalism during the 3-day Halloween period using data from an ongoing fire surveillance system maintained by the Detroit Fire Department (DFD) to target areas at