An extensive study into effects of better street lighting has found a 39% drop in crime.
The six-month study by New York Crime Lab researchers, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the New York City Police Department and the New York City Housing Authority identified great benefits and effective payback.
It indicates that better street lighting is a functional and effective means to reduce crime in urban areas, with the costs of deployment balanced relatively quickly by lower costs associated with criminal activity at night.
The results of the study can also be interpreted as a potential means for residents to put pressure on local authorities to improve street lighting with LED deployment to improve community safety and even reduce insurance costs.
The study effectively provides for the first time a benchmark for local authorities to use.
The randomised controlled trial was set up to test the potential to reduce outdoor night crime in and around New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) housing developments.
The researchers deployed light towers to outdoor public spaces and these were lit during all night hours for the six-month duration. At the same time, control developments received no additional outdoor lighting.
In total around 80 public housing developments in all five boroughs of New York city were included in the study, with half acting as control with no new temporary street lights.
Interestingly, the research found that the communities benefited from an overall reduced crime rate, both day and night.
The study’s most dramatic findings were on “index crimes” – serious offences such as murder, robbery and aggravated assault and some property crimes.
- Index crimes: 7% reduction in overall index crimes (day and night). This reduction in overall index crimes was driven by a 39% reduction in index crimes that took place outdoors at night.
- Felony crimes: 5% reduction in overall felony crimes (day and night). This reduction in overall felony crimes was driven by a 30% reduction in felony crimes that took place outdoors at night.
- Assault, homicide and weapons crimes: 2% reduction in overall assault, homicide, and weapons crimes (day and night). This reduction in overall assault, homicide and weapons crimes was driven by a 12% reduction in assault, homicide and weapons crimes that took place outdoors at night.
- Misdemeanour crimes: No detectable change in net misdemeanour crimes in treatment communities
An initial survey of residents after the project indicated strong support for the new lighting but the response was skewed by age and other factors so was not taken as fully representative.
See the full report here: The Impact of Street Lighting on Crime in New York City Public Housing