Your Checklist of Tasks
There is no published step-by-step
guide on how to improve street lighting to reduce crime, and in any case, every
problem-oriented project is unique. You will therefore have to tailor general
guidelines to your own situation to produce an action plan. Answering the
questions below will help you do this.
The amount of work you
will need to do to personally to ensure the project's completion will depend
crucially on whether the local government supplies a project coordinator: you
should do your best to persuade the responsible officials that a project
coordinator is vital. Impress upon them the need for government oversight and
accountability. You can then work with whoever is appointed, knowing that the
responsibility does not rest entirely on your shoulders.
Analyzing the Problem
- Have you clearly defined the
- Have you collected reliable data
about the types of crime and disorder that are the focus of concern?
- Do you know the proportion of
crimes committed by day and by night?
- Do you know whether these crimes
are committed by local residents or outsiders?
- If outsiders, do you know whether
they go to the neighborhood specifically to commit crimes, or whether they do
so when visiting or passing through?
- Can you document that the lighting
in the neighborhood is seriously deficient?
- Have you estimated how much crime improved
lighting will prevent?
- Have you clear expectations about
how improved lighting can reduce crime? For example, by enabling witnesses to
see offenders and report incidents to the police? Or by raising the fear in the
minds of offenders that this will happen?
- Have you explored alternatives to improved
lighting, e.g., video surveillance, neighborhood watch, crackdowns, crime
- Can you explain why these
alternatives cannot adequately substitute for improved lighting?
Formulating a Plan
- How many new lights are needed?
- How many existing lights must be
- What type of lights will be
- Where will the lights be located?
- If video cameras are in use in the
neighborhood, will the improved lighting affect the quality of their operation?
- Might improved lighting in some
places encourage undesirable behavior? For example, might lighting a rarely
used footpath increase opportunities for victimization?
- Will the lighting selected produce
adequate levels of vertical illumination so that people can clearly see the
faces of others?
- How much will the new lighting
- Have you obtained the agreement of
any residents who will be required to pay for the improvements?
- How long will it take to install
the new lighting once agreement has been reached?
- Who will install the new lighting?
- Is there a detailed plan showing
which trees and bushes need to be trimmed?
- Who is responsible for trimming
- Do you have support from police
district commanders, the chief, and other key city officials, such as the lighting
- Do you have a clear mandate from
residents and elected representatives?
- Are residents content with the
appearance and location of the new lights?
- Have you dealt adequately with
individual concerns about light trespass?
- Can you answer any worries about
- Have you allayed resident concerns
about neighborhood stigmatization?
- Have you dealt with the worries of
nearby communities about displaced crime?
- Have you briefed the local media
about the need for improved lighting?
- Have you dealt satisfactorily with
Implementing the Plan
- Has a municipal project
coordinator been appointed?
- Have you constructed a detailed
timeline showing when each element of the improved lighting program will be
started and completed?
- Does this plan include both approvals
- Are all parties informed about and
in agreement with this timetable?
- Are you prepared—do you have the
necessary data—to be able to compare neighborhood crime or disorder after the
lighting has been improved?
- Will the before and after time
periods be directly comparable? For example, will you be able to control for
time of year?
- Will you be able to compare the
proportions of crime committed by day and by night?
- Will you be able to compare before
and after crime trends in your neighborhood with those in nearby neighborhoods?
- Will you examine possible
displacement and diffusion?
- Will you try to estimate the
cost-effectiveness of the improved street lighting?
It is clear that reductions in crime can be achieved by
improvements in street lighting and that these reductions will be most
worthwhile in high crime neighborhoods. It is also clear that improved lighting
can reduce crime both in the day and at night. This suggests that improvements
to lighting not only act as situational deterrent to crime, but can also
improve local community cohesion and pride, which in turn increases the willingness
of residents to intervene in crime or cooperate with the police. Improved
lighting will also send a message to potential offenders that the neighborhood
no longer offers easy opportunities for crime.
Unfortunately, the available research does not answer every
question a police officer will confront in a project designed to improve
lighting. There is still a considerable need for the exercise of professional
judgment at all stages of such a project, but submissions for the Goldstein and
Tilley awards include many success stories where police have worked together
with communities and local officials to improve lighting.11
Altogether, it can be concluded that when used judiciously "improved street
lighting has few negative effects and clear benefits for law-abiding citizens."12