Preventing Halloween Arson in an Urban Setting: a Model for Multisectoral Planning and Community Participation

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Arson is a violent crime and a public health problem that causes injuries and deaths, destroys homes, and destabilizes neighborhoods. During the late 1970s, pre-Halloween pranks in Detroit, Michigan, turned destructive when hundreds of fires were set deliberately throughout the city; in 1984, a record of 810 fires were set during the Halloween period. In 1985, a city wide anti-arson campaign that involved the mobilization and training of thousands of community volunteers was begun in Detroit. This report describes the multiple components of the anti-arson intervention from 1985 through 1996 and changes in the incidence of Halloween fires. Both the decrease in annual Halloween arson fires after the intervention began and the inverse relationship between the number of volunteers and the number of fires suggest a causal effect. This study illustrates the capacity of an urban community to mobilize its residents and stakeholders, the importance of community participation and multisectoral partnerships in program planning and implementation, and the challenges faced in retrospectively evaluating an apparently successful, complex, community-based intervention.


Arson – Prevention; Halloween; Michigan – Detroit; Practical jokes


Civic and Community Engagement | Criminology | Place and Environment | Sociology of Culture | Urban Studies and Planning


Use Find in Your Library, contact the author, or use interlibrary loan to garner a copy of the article. Publisher copyright policy allows author to archive post-print (author’s final manuscript). When post-print is available or publisher policy changes, the article will be deposited


Use Find in Your Library, contact the author, or interlibrary loan to garner a copy of the item. Publisher policy does not allow archiving the final published version. If a post-print (author's peer-reviewed manuscript) is allowed and available, or publisher policy changes, the item will be deposited.

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