Faulty Lighting & Crime - Oct 19, 2012

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Written by Administrator
Friday, 19 October 2012 00:00

Since when has it become OK to excuse city officials for failing to repair non-functioning street lights under the questionable belief that criminal acts are just as likely to be committed in good lighting as poor?

The answer is earlier this month. And, no, I'm not joking.

In response to a news story that appeared on WWLTV.com on October 4 about a violent carjacking in the neighborhood of Camp and Delachaise, some readers were, to my way of thinking, too quick to dismiss complaints from local community members that faulty street lights played a role in the crime. The victim was shot twice in the chest before the gunmen made off with his Cadillac Esplanade. After the incident, some of the residents expressed anger that the street light over the crime scene was not functioning at the time of the carjacking and had not been working for several years, despite their many pleas to the city to fix it.

As bad as the story was, what struck me the most were the readers' comments. They ran something along the lines of this: Street lights won't stop the crimes. And: Why focus on the street lights? The criminals are to blame.

Well, that's interesting. You have to wonder if these people felt the same way when Katrina came to town. Because faulty levies weren't the problem, right? It was the storm that was to blame. And if we can't stop the storm, why bother with the levies?

To be quite honest, I was flabbergasted by the incredibly low expectations some tax-paying citizens have for their local government. Or maybe it's just a matter of what's important to whom because as we all know, if it's not important to me, it can't be important to you.

In the case of the Camp and Delachaise street light, the question seems to be whether or not the city is responsible for meeting what I would consider a very reasonable expectation: making sure our neighborhood street lights actually work.

I do not believe the city should get a pass on this issue because I, for one, want my street light beaming full force when I get out of my car alone and walk into my house at night. It just makes me feel safer. But it's not about how I feel, is it?

OK, then let's look at it in more objective terms. Does improved street lighting reduce crime? Does it make a difference?

The effect of good lighting on crime reduction is a complicated and difficult issue, according to a US Department of Justice paper that was published in 2008. While older studies from the 1970s are inconclusive, more recent studies published in the United Kingdom found that increased lighting did in fact result in significant crime reduction.

We need to seriously weigh this information and give it the importance it deserves because as of September 26, 2012, there were more than 8,000 reported faulty street lights in our city. We know that some of those were the result of Hurricane Isaac, but we know that many were not. And if having good street lights can make a difference in preventing crime and save even one life, then there is not a single valid excuse that the city can offer for not fixing all 8,000 lights in a timely manner. The city says it has more than $6 million in one-time federal grant money to fix street lights. If you have an outage in your neighborhood, the city asks that you call 311.

By the way, in the case of the Camp-Delachaise street light, it was finally repaired—two days after the carjacking.  

Last Updated ( Thursday, 03 January 2013 14:00 )