Outdoor, Street

Lighting sector to benefit from doubling of Safer Streets fund

Back view of young brunette woman walking late at night in Rome, Italy city centre. Girl turns and see the Colosseum.
The Safer Streets fund provides neighbourhood measures for local projects and includes lighting upgrades and CCTV.

THE EXTERIOR lighting sector is set to benefit from a surprise announcement last night that the Safer Streets fund will be doubled to £45 million.

The move follows a meeting of the Criminal Justice Taskforce, chaired by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to find ways to provide further reassurance for women and girls following the murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard. 

The fund provides neighbourhood measures for local projects and includes lighting upgrades and CCTV..

The Government said the money could be targeted at parks and alleyways, and routes from bars, restaurants and nightclubs as we see a return to the night-time economy, in line with the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.

While lighting has long been a tool in the fight against anti-social behaviour, vandalism, crime and suicides in our cities and, crucially, in reducing the fear of crime, evidence that lighting actually cuts crime has been elusive.

Some isolated interventions have shown positive results.

In Essex for instance, a trial to turn off suburban streetlights between midnight and 5.30am proved successful in reducing crime.

Police said: ‘A year-on-year comparison for April 2006 to May 2007 (when streetlights were left on all night) and April 2007 to May 2008 (when streetlights were turned off at midnight) has shown that night-time crime has almost halved in Saffron Walden and reduced by over a third in Dunmow.’

In 2018, a major control study in New York City demonstrated that lighting cut night-time crime by 39 per cent.

Nearly 80 public housing developments in New York City participated in the six-month randomised controlled trial 

Half of the developments received new, temporary street lights, and half did not. The study found that the developments that received the new lights experienced crime rates that were significantly lower than would have been the case without the new lights.

Among other findings, the study concluded that increased levels of lighting led to a 7 per cent overall reduction in so-called index crimes— a subset of serious offences that includes murder, robbery and aggravated assault, as well as certain property crimes.

Specifically, at night there was a 39 per cent reduction in index crimes. Previous reports into lighting and crime undertaken in the US and the UK over the last two decades show a mixed picture, with lighting reducing crime in about half the studies but, significantly, not at night. 

The New York study, by contrast, shows an expected and dramatically significant correlation with crime at night.

Another report, from the UK government in 1991, The influence of streetlighting on crime and the fear of crime, stated: ‘The principal conclusion is that no evidence could be found to support the hypothesis that improved streetlighting reduces reported crime. 

‘The main database for the study consisted of over 100,000 reported crimes… The area studied, an inner London borough, has a high crime rate in a national context and thus represented a fair test for environmental crime-prevention measures.’