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When planning new and replacement lighting schemes the council’s street lighting engineers and the Highways Agency use BS 5489-1:2003+A2:2008 Code of practice for the design of road lighting - Lighting of roads and public amenity areas. This code of practice provides all the necessary technical information required to provide the most efficient public lighting.
See also Ten Tips for New Lighting Schemes below
We have always assumed that improved street lighting reduces crime (and road accidents) and this has been supported by lots of research by people such as Doctor Kate Painter and Professor David Farrington. However, in an effort to reduce costs and carbon emissions, some local authorities around the country are switching off street lamps for certain periods of the night. The first authority to do this was Essex and after the first twelve months of the experiment crime reports did not increase. There has been a rise in the fear of crime, but the carbon emissions have been reduced by 22%. I also understand that the areas that have been affected by the ‘switch off’ had low crime levels anyway.
So what’s going on? Does street lighting reduce crime or not?
Yesterday I would have said yes, but today I am not quite so sure. With recent criticisms by academics of other academic’s research I think the jury is still out on this one. But, with more local authorities now switching lights off at night, I think the next few years will provide an excellent opportunity for some new independent research to inform the debate.
Having worked on crime reduction projects with street lighting engineers in the London Boroughs of Ealing and Camden I can definitely vouch for the fact that some of the targeted street lighting improvements I worked on did result in crime reductions.
In an effort to assist Ealing’s street lighting engineer I collected data for night-time crime occurring in the street. I supplied the council with a list of 50 streets that had the most night-time crime. The lighting engineer had his own list and his identified the streets which either had very poor lighting, which did not meet with the requirements of British Standard 5489, or needed the rotting columns replacing.
There were around 20 streets on my list that were on his and so he improved the lighting along these streets first. After 12 months I looked at the data again and found an overall night-time crime reduction of about 15%, so it had seemed worthwhile (Crime was generally rising across the borough at this time, so these results seemed even better than we expected). However, when I was collecting the night-time crime data I couldn’t help noticing that a lot of the other 30 streets on my list already had a good standard of lighting. What this told me was that street lighting was having positive effects, but only to a point, beyond which I would have to look at other situational measures to reduce crime.
So, this section has been deliberately left short while I investigate the matter further. New information will be posted here as soon as I get it. In the meantime do report ‘lamp outs’ to the council by phone or email. They will want to know the street name and the number on the light column or the house number closest to the column, so their guys can easily find it.
I’ll leave you with the following table and invite you to add comments to either side of the argument. Simply respond using the Feedback form.
Some thoughts about street lighting
THE POSITIVE THINGS
THE NEGATIVE THINGS
Evidence strongly suggests that we feel safer in a well lit street
Just because we feel safer doesn’t mean we are safer. Some paths across parks have not been lit at night for fear that this would attract pedestrians into isolated areas where they might be more at risk
Research suggests that improved street lighting can reduce crime
Many crimes occur in well lit places and in the daylight. Is there a point beyond which improved street lighting does not make a difference?
Research suggests that improved street lighting increases residents' community pride and informal social control in their area
There are also some negative aspects of improved street lighting, such as night sky pollution and negative ecological effects
Improved street lighting might deter criminals if they fear detection as a consequence of the extra light
The switching off of lights in Essex has not resulted in increases in crime. Probably because the criminals can’t see where they are going and if they walk along with a torch they will stand out like a sore thumb.
Street lighting reduces car accidents and injuries on the road
Preliminary findings from Buckinghamshire Council’s Saving Energy trial are showing overall reductions in vehicle collisions where street lights have been turned off.
Improved street lighting is cost effective, because of the cost savings of reduced crime and accidents
See Home office research study 251 by Farrington and Welsh, which supports improved street lighting at: Download here
See Radical statistics Issue 102 What is the contribution of street lighting to keeping us safe? An investigation into a policy by Paul Marchant, which criticises the research at: Download here
If you would like to add to the thoughts above please let me know what they are by clicking on Feedback on this page (top left).
Ten Tips for New Lighting Schemes
The Ten Tips for New Lighting Schemes will help anyone who is looking to improve the lighting of the built environment, such as builders, architects, local authority personnel and police crime prevention staff.
1. Always use a qualified and competent designer – this will reduce your risk and provide you with a sensible, well thought out design.
2. Don’t be afraid of LED (Light-emitting diode), the cautionary part is when you buy cheap and think you will still get all it claims to achieve. Do not buy from companies who do not have credibility and who may not be around to see out their “so called” guarantees.
3. When specifying LED look for acceptable colour temperatures of 3000K or up to 4000K but no higher or it will appear too blue and make everyone look unwell. For areas where crime may be an issue look at a high CRI (colour rendering index) of 80 or above, so that colour of skin, clothing or vehicles can easily be identified should you need to prosecute. Heat is a killer for LED so make sure the product can remove heat from the chip area with a quality and substantial heat sync. Remember that the product is only as good as its weakest link and this is usually the control gear or driver, again as with anything electronic don’t be tempted to buy cheap as these will not leave you with a robust system and it’s more likely to fail much earlier than you expected. Finally use a consultant who can guide you through the process as mistakes will be more expensive than their fees.
4. Uniformity helps to reduce shadows and means the eye adapts more easily, so reducing the fear of crime from poor peripheral vision.
5. As the eye ages it does not adapt as quickly and needs more light to see. Should your scheme be in an area where there is a high percentage of people over 45 then bear in mind their reduced visual capacity and light accordingly. This does not necessarily mean more light but it will mean the design needs careful thought and implementation.
6. For high crime areas make sure you get good facial modelling with a certain amount of vertical illuminance. Some Councils use a high G class rating for their street lighting specification and this can mean that although you meet lighting levels on the ground you don’t get any vertical illuminance which can create vertical dark spots for wrongdoers to hide.
7. Something to always avoid is disabling glare as it’s distracting and can mean your eye won’t clearly see what is right in front of you. Not useful when encountering a potential threat. Effective optics and lamp control will mean a better scheme and comfort for the user.
8. Don’t just think about the exterior as the interior lighting can also impact on the outside environment and potentially cause problems.
9. It is not always necessary to light but if it is required then it has to be done well and to Standards.
10. Avoid bollards as they don’t give any facial illuminance, they are easily vandalised, they require a higher quantity to reach any lighting levels and the results are more often than not non-compliant with the Standards. They are also not environmentally friendly as you require more of them and they cost more to energise as you have more connections. Columns or wall mounted luminaires are always a better choice.