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Evidence regarding the impact of the street lighting on crime and antisocial behaviour

Report produced for Cambridgeshire County Council

The context of this policy note is the proposed part-night lighting (PNL) scheme to be introduced by Cambridgeshire County Council in large parts of the County. Community Safety Partnerships have sought reassurance that the scheme will not have a negative impact on levels of crime and anti social behaviour. Having reviewed the research evidence about the use of streetlights and community safety the following conclusions can be drawn:

 Recently published research1 has found no evidence of a relationship between the count of crime and streetlight switch off or part-night lighting.

 That the evidence pointing towards the limited benefit of streetlights in reducing crime cannot be reversed and used to argue that withdrawing lighting will result in an increase.

 The main academic evidence for the benefits of street lights such as that relied upon by the College of Policing relates to the mid-1990s at the latest, but also back to the 1970s. A time when crime was much higher than it is today making direct comparison to the current situation problematic.

 Previous research that has been completed on street lighting has been contradictory and subject to academic dispute.

 The best conclusion that can be drawn from the research literature is that the general benefit of street lighting in reducing crime is unproven but in very specific circumstances, where there is an existing crime hot-spot and current lighting is poor then improvements may prove beneficial.

 There is a strong association in minds of the public between the presence of lighting and a feeling of safety. However, recent survey evidence2 suggests that despite this the introduction of part-night lighting won’t change actual behaviour as other factors such as an area’s reputation, personal feelings of vulnerability and time-specific circumstances (such as pub closing times) have a stronger influence.

 In the light of these findings it can be considered highly unlikely that the Cambridgeshire PNL scheme will cause an increase in crime.


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