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Power United Kingdom Technology

Britain Shuts Off 750,000 Streetlights With No Impact On Crime Or Crashes 307

Flash Modin writes: English cities are hard up for cash as the national government dolls out cuts. And in response, the country's councils — local governing bodies — have slashed costs by turning off an estimated 750,000 streetlights. Fans of the night sky and reduced energy usage are happy, but the move has also sparked a national debate. The Automobile Association claims six people have died as a direct result of dimming the lights. But a new study released Wednesday looked at 14 years of data from 63 local authorities across England and Wales and found that residents' chances of being attacked, robbed, or struck by a car were no worse on the darker streets.
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Britain Shuts Off 750,000 Streetlights With No Impact On Crime Or Crashes

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  • Editors : WTF (Score:5, Informative)

    by amalcolm ( 1838434 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @10:05AM (#50214309)
    "dolls out cuts" Verb dole (third-person singular simple present doles, present participle doling, simple past and past participle doled) To distribute in small amounts; to share out small portions of a meager resource. back to school for you
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by WTFmonkey ( 652603 )

      Not only that, but "doling out cuts" is a stupid phrase anyway. Giving out small amounts of something you're actually taking away?

      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        Agreed.

        It's like saying "We have no chips in the vending machine".

        You cannot "have none" - but you can "not have any".

        "We do not have any chips in the vending machine" would be correct.
        • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

          by mopower70 ( 250015 )

          It's like saying "We have no chips in the vending machine".
          You cannot "have none" - but you can "not have any".
          "We do not have any chips in the vending machine" would be correct.

          You have no idea what you're talking about. You don't have any idea what you're talking about either. Both of my assertions are grammatically and logically correct, with the former using the "no-negation" form of assertion.

        • It's like saying "We have no chips in the vending machine".

          "you have no money" whether or not it's good English, my bank loves telling me this every day.

    • by CODiNE ( 27417 )

      It's actually supposed to be "dolls up cuts" describing the way that budget cuts have been dressed up and beautified in order to reduce public resistance. It also makes budget cuts much more attractive dinner dates.

  • by invictusvoyd ( 3546069 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @10:05AM (#50214313)
    Amateur astronomers in Britain welcome the governments decision to turn off street lights . Telescopes are back in business.
  • Criminals need light to see too. Try painting graffiti on a wall while it's completely dark. And I'll far more easily spot a torch flashing in my garden than someone hiding behind bush. I'll be lobbying my local council to do this.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 30, 2015 @10:23AM (#50214427)

      You still use torches? Get with the times, use a flashlight, you savage :)

  • by boristdog ( 133725 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @10:11AM (#50214359)

    And cars tend to have headlights.

    I remember a study from the 90's that showed eliminating lights around schools at night actually reduced the number of break-ins at those schools. The reasoning was that a) most people are afraid of the dark and b) a ne'er-do-well would need a flashlight, which would be easy to spot in the darkness.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 30, 2015 @10:23AM (#50214421)

      And cars tend to have headlights.

      I remember a study from the 90's that showed eliminating lights around schools at night actually reduced the number of break-ins at those schools. The reasoning was that a) most people are afraid of the dark and b) a ne'er-do-well would need a flashlight, which would be easy to spot in the darkness.

      It's also found that motion sensing lights are more effective than ones that stay on all night long for similar reasons. The light suddenly coming on can scare away prowlers who who previous hidden in the dark plus it attracts attention when lights are suddenly switching on and off around a building that is known to be unoccupied.

      • The light suddenly coming on can scare away prowlers who who previous hidden in the dark plus it attracts attention when lights are suddenly switching on and off around a building that is known to be unoccupied.

        Unfortunately, the also attract attention when they are suddenly switching on and off around buildings that are occupied, and they do it whether it's a criminal triggering them or just someone walking home late or a neighbour's pet cat.

        We've recently had a bunch of work done on the streetlights around us, leaving it completely dark right outside our own home. It looks like several people have almost immediately installed their own lighting at their own expense to compensate (which gives you some idea of how

    • by idji ( 984038 )
      The town I live in has 25,000 people and NO street lights. It is wonderful!
    • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @10:28AM (#50214455)
      Unless properly placed, lights create darker shadows (relative to the light) that are easier to hide in. Most street lamps are placed without consideration to existing structures, and new structures don't cause existing street lamps to be altered.
      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @11:46AM (#50215347) Journal
        I used to walk home through a park. Except on cloudless nights with no moon, you got enough reflected light to be able to see quite clearly across it. Then there some some hysteria about the potential for being attacked (triggered by a flasher, who only exposed himself to people in broad daylight) and they added a row of streetlights along the side of the path. If you stood about 10m from the path, you were completely invisible to someone walking along it, but they were clearly visible to you for their entire trip across the park (as were any potential witnesses on the path). If someone actually wanted to attack people crossing the park, the lights made it a lot easier. It would only take a few seconds to hit someone and drag them out of the visible area.
    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Well, but according to the grandparent article http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new... [telegraph.co.uk] reffered to in this article, this article is bullshit "Research suggests that road accidents have risen by 20 per cent in areas where street lights were switched off." So a twenty percent increase in car accidents, so shit for brain austerity fuck wit has simply shifted the cost from the rich back to poorer tax payers driving back home from work in the dark or driving to work in the dark. Hey, 20% increase in car accidents, de

      • It's not just road accidents, either. I have family and friends near where that article is talking about, so I've seen the results directly.

        For the younger generations we are seeing some people, particularly females, not wanting to go out late as they'll have to find their way home alone and no longer feel safe. Alternative: Everyone now drives everywhere after dark. Yay for being environmentally friendly.

        For older generations, they are actually leaving early even when just visiting friends' homes for the e

    • And cars tend to have headlights.

      Unfortunately, those headlights also tend to be aimed at the road ahead and maybe a little ground just to the side of it. They offer little visibility into junctions or corners. A few modern vehicles do have dedicated cornering lights, but even those provide nowhere near the visibility into where you'll be going next that street lighting does.

      Since we're not citing studies we remember, I remember one from just a few years ago that suggested the most cost-effective single measure we could take to save lives

  • Other than business corridors, I think street lights should only be placed at intersections. My town cutback on lights starting 20 years ago. It was the right move.

    • I wish mine would.

      I live in a town with 2500 residents, and I can almost swear that we have at least as many streetlights. From my house (on a street that's literally 4 house-property-sized-lots long), I can count 8 streetlights visible from the property, front and back.

  • Did they take into account how many people used the darkened streets? Maybe people felt less safe in the dark, so avoided going out in the dark.

    When I bike home in the dark, I take a longer route with streetlights rather than go on the dark side streets. (I do have adequate lighting, but feel safer knowing that I can see blocks ahead of me)

    • Did they take into account how many people used the darkened streets? Maybe people felt less safe in the dark, so avoided going out in the dark.

      Ok, if that is true then where is the actual problem?

      When I bike home in the dark, I take a longer route with streetlights rather than go on the dark side streets.

      So we should waste money and resources and pollution lighting up roads so you can bike home? I'm all for biking but I think this is a needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few situation.

      • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

        Did they take into account how many people used the darkened streets? Maybe people felt less safe in the dark, so avoided going out in the dark.

        Ok, if that is true then where is the actual problem?

        If no lighting makes residents stay at home because they don't feel safe outside when they'd otherwise be out and about, that seems like a problem. Communities could reduce a lot of crime by enforcing a 7pm curfew, but that doesn't mean a curfew is a good thing.

        When I bike home in the dark, I take a longer route with streetlights rather than go on the dark side streets.

        So we should waste money and resources and pollution lighting up roads so you can bike home? I'm all for biking but I think this is a needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few situation.

        Or maybe spend money and resources making residents feel safe and secure in their community?

        • If no lighting makes residents stay at home because they don't feel safe outside when they'd otherwise be out and about, that seems like a problem.

          Their perception of danger is of no concern to me. I'm concerned with the actuality of danger. They are adults and not children who ought to be afraid of the dark. If they don't feel safe outside then I'd suggest they spend their money improving their policing or move some place where they feel safer. Again, if they are scared of nothing (and the data indicates that they are) and decide to stay home rather than face the night then I don't see an actual problem.

          Or maybe spend money and resources making residents feel safe and secure in their community?

          Real security isn't going to come from a bu

          • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

            If no lighting makes residents stay at home because they don't feel safe outside when they'd otherwise be out and about, that seems like a problem.

            Their perception of danger is of no concern to me. I'm concerned with the actuality of danger. They are adults and not children who ought to be afraid of the dark. If they don't feel safe outside then I'd suggest they spend their money improving their policing or move some place where they feel safer. Again, if they are scared of nothing (and the data indicates that they are) and decide to stay home rather than face the night then I don't see an actual problem.

            Where's the data that says they are afraid of nothing? If this study didn't account for how many people were outside without lights, then it doesn't show that.

            Or maybe spend money and resources making residents feel safe and secure in their community?

            Real security isn't going to come from a bunch of wasteful street lamps. At best it is security theater and it definitely is a huge waste of resources.

            Security theater can be effective it it gets more people to be outside and using their streets, and it makes the streets more usable and neighborhoods more livable.

            Results in the USA have been mixed, some times streetlights reduced crime, sometimes it had no effect.

            http://www.citylab.com/housing... [citylab.com]

            But even if the streetlights don't actually reduce cri

            • Criminals, like everyone else, need light to see what they're doing. And using a flashlight calls attention to them if they're in someone's yard. This is the reason why burglary rates go up during gibbous and full moons.
              • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

                Criminals, like everyone else, need light to see what they're doing. And using a flashlight calls attention to them if they're in someone's yard. This is the reason why burglary rates go up during gibbous and full moons.

                Got any data to back that up?

                http://usatoday30.usatoday.com... [usatoday.com]

                So, to find out, the study team looked at San Antonio, Tex., from 2001 to 2005, a city of more than a million people for which exhaustive crime data is available. The team crunched nightly crime data, noting rain, daylight, indoor vs. outdoor locations and other environmental effects unaccounted for in past efforts. Murder happens too rarely in San Antonio to give a statistical signal, so the team looked at assaults, burglary, theft, drugs and vice crimes, traffic crimes, and "other disturbances," totaling about 130,000 incidents a year.

                "It is the very error of the moon," wrote Shakespeare in Othello. "She comes more near the earth than she was wont, And makes men mad."

                Maybe in Venice, but not in San Antonio, the study concludes. "Substantive lunar effects on crime were not found in the data analyzed here," say the report. "Although popular culture, folk lore, and even certain occupational lore suggested the 'freaks' come out during full moons, this phenomenon was not reflected in San Antonio police data as used here."

              • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

                Criminals, like everyone else, need light to see what they're doing.

                Not when I'm wearing my night-vision goggles.

      • So we should waste money and resources and pollution lighting up roads so you can bike home?

        Should one waste money on road repairs, and resources on pollution from cars just so you can have fewer lights? You're assuming (unwarranted) that the bike is somehow special and the car is the default option.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @10:23AM (#50214425) Homepage
    As an american, Its good to see the brits following in our footsteps. We started shutting off street lights here in places like Stockton California and Detroit Michigan quite some time ago. The impact on reported crime is minimal, as we've also been shutting off funding to most of the police departments. Crash statistics, surprisingly, remain unchanged as well. most cars in these locations dont run, and even if they did there arent any jobs to drive to.

    Our next bold experiments are shutting off water in California and shutting off education in Wisconsin.
    • ... shutting off education in Wisconsin.

      I'd say that this would show up as a noticeable reduction in the dumbing down of Americans but, let's face it, the bar is pretty close to zero already so there's not much down-side movement left to go.

    • We started shutting off street lights here in places like Stockton California and Detroit Michigan quite some time ago. The impact on reported crime is minimal

      I think crime in Detroit is already as high as it can possibly get.

  • by MightyDrunken ( 1171335 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @10:27AM (#50214451)
    The debate has been ongoing for decades over how much street lamps reduce crime and vehicle accidents. My feelings are that they help a little in both these aspects of safety but not by much. When you consider the ongoing costs of electricity and other improvements that could have been made, street lights are not worth it.

    After quickly reviewing the evidence I may have to change my opinion, slightly. This Swedish metanalysis [cam.ac.uk]found that the 13 studies (8 American and 5 British), taken together,

    showed that improved lighting led to a significant 21% decrease in crime in experimental areas compared with comparable control areas.

    Dammit as a self described sceptic I will have to change my mind, but wait.

    Since these studies did not find that nighttime crimes decreased more than daytime crimes

    Yes the crime dropped, but for the studies which measured both day and night crime, both dropped by similar amounts. This suggests either the control areas are somehow different in some other way or more likely that street lamps give a perception of improvement and a more upmarket neighbourhood.

    As a fan of the night sky and I find it unnatural to live in an orange glow, moon light is far more romantic I stand by my opinion that street lights should be concentrated in city centres, leave everywhere else dark.

    • "When you consider the ongoing costs of electricity"

      Street lamps are generally on very long poles. Fill the poles with batteries rather than cables, add solar panels and use LED lights.

      You could easily make street lights a net contributor to electricity.

      • and you'll have thieves stealing expensive street lights

        • Considering that the ones in my city are all aluminum ones they are already valuable as scrap and no one seems to be stealing them I wouldn't worry too much.
      • That is starting to happen anyways. Once led parking lot lights came out Walmart was one of the big first customers. All new and a plan to slowly retrofit older locations have led lighting. The cost savings alone was paying back Walmart after 2-3 years.

      • As far as efficiency goes there doesn't look to be much difference at the moment between sodium vapor lights and LED lights [grahlighting.eu]. That said LED lights will probably become the clearly superior option in the future. As far as the solar panel I would suggest having it be large and have a reflective bottom (not shiny but brilliant white) so that the light that bounces back up to it will get reflected back down. This should help decrease the amount of light pollution and also make it so less light needs to be produc
  • In my city the less illuminated streets are the ones with more crime. There may or may not be a causation --- here is 3rd world, not Great Britain. I am wondering if lack of street light correlates with more crime because it is the neighborhoods the politicians care less about; if that is so, less street lights in such neighborhoods will signal that authorities really don't care, and it may increase crime.
    To some it all: that's Great Britain; don't try it in at your hometown.
  • but it still makes it difficult for pedestrians, and put them at greater risk of injuring themselves.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      difficult for pedestrians

      Carry a flashlight (torch). You will be a lot more visible to vehicles as a moving light source and it eliminates the shadows behind shrubs where streetlights can't reach.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @10:37AM (#50214539)

    I'm a fan of getting rid of streetlights but...

    There is one way in which I can see they make things definitely less safe, and that is clearly indicating where the edges of the roads are in really bad weather - in a driving snow or rainstorm, there have been times I've been really happy to have the lights on other sides confirming where the road was, because it was not possible to see that clearly through the windshield.

    • In such conditions, shouldn't parked cars leave their parking lights on?
    • by sjwest ( 948274 )

      I live by a fast road in the uk , part of it has street lamps. seven people died in an overloaded renault clio late one night crossing four lanes and hitting a tree, another drove into a railway bridge that 'moved' I can give other examples but i attribute most of these fatalities to idiots. Yes the road might be more than the average 'dangerous' but that is due to the risks drivers take. The clio driver later committed suicide without using a car.

      As uk lights dont have bad weather sensors I see bad d

  • by medv4380 ( 1604309 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @10:52AM (#50214645)
    The lack of accidents and crime are more likely related to a general trend in crime going down from before they started turning off the lights. Accounting for that is very difficult, and is more likely to get someone to weight the data to make it say what they want it to say, and not the truth. 6 deaths is also far too few to start drawing statistical meaning ether. Give me at least one full year worth of data so I can compare it to the prior year, and have half of the country keep their lights on so It can be compared to the same time frame as well. They wouldn't be perfect, but better than what both sides have given.
    • They did it over 14 years in diverse areas.
      • They're comparing the small period of time where they've been turning off the lights due to budget cuts to 14 years of times where they haven't. Just because one half of the equation has enough data to analyse doesn't mean you have enough data to compare.
    • The lack of accidents and crime are more likely related to a general trend in crime going down from before they started turning off the lights. ... Give me at least one full year worth of data so I can compare it to the prior year, and have half of the country keep their lights on so It can be compared to the same time frame as well.

      Hear, hear!

      There's lots of room for methodology errors. Here's another:

      Comparing murder rates between Great Britain and the US is complicated by differences in reporting. The

  • Math problem (Score:3, Interesting)

    by William Baric ( 256345 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @10:53AM (#50214655)

    Light use electricity. Producing electricity creates pollution. Pollution is responsible for a lot of death. Six people died because of turning off some lights. How many did not die because of reduced pollution?

  • Even if the number of crimes did not change, did lack of lighting impact the ability to solve or identify and convict the crimes that did occur? Also, did they check if the various types of traffic changed?
  • One of the problems with traditional street lights is they take a while to warm up. If street lights are replaced with LED based ones, would having them fitted with movement sensors be practical, such that they only stay on while they sense movement and then after that either dim down or turn off?

    There is certainly research going into this: http://www.gizmag.com/motion-s... [gizmag.com]

    I would be curious whether there are any off the shelf solutions, for retrofitting existing light sockets? This would be useful for apar

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      normally I dismiss this "internet of things" as silliness. but here is an exception, where our autonomous cars can communicate to the road and the low power high efficiency streetlights can turn on as required (predictively, from knowing our destination) as we travel, and shut off again once we pass by.

      as for retrofitting existing sockets with sensors, yes. home depot, lowes, grainger, and other building supplies stores sell them in various capacities (higher ones need more specialized suppliers like Graing

    • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )
      AKA "Billie Jean" [instructables.com] lights. People kept telling me The King of Pop was ahead of his time, but I didn't believe them.
  • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @01:55PM (#50216745) Homepage

    I wonder who wants street lights, and why. Just as an anecdote: our 70-something neighbor is really proud of the fact that she and her one-time neighbors got the town to install streetlights on our street 30 or 40 years ago. Meanwhile, we - my family and I - find them obnoxiously bright. We'd love to not have street lights. Our street leads nowhere, so there is no pedestrian traffic beyond our few houses. Criminals are unlikely this far out of town, and anyway, most houses have dogs and/or security lights.

    All I can figure is: my neighbor's generation grew up in small towns, wanted the feel of civilization, and streetlights are a part of that. Whereas we have lived in the big cities, and want to get away from civilization.

    Anyhow, ours are also the kind of streetlight that light up the whole flipping world, instead of just the street. That never many any sense; stupid design by clueless people, bought by an equally clueless town. Our house is 50 meters from the street, and you can almost-but-not-quite read by the damned things.

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