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Cut Crime Not Lights

March 9th 2016

LCC lighting plans

LCC lighting plans

Louth has a new police inspector, Richard Myszczyszyn (pronounced "Mister Shin"), for the Wolds Neighbourhood Policing Team. Inspector Myszczyszyn introduced himself to councillors at the meeting of Louth Town Council on Tuesday, 8th March. He has been in the post only two weeks, and he explained that he was looking for a new challenge after working in CID.

This was a good opportunity to ask questions, and there is one particularly troublesome issue that I wanted to ask about. LCC are planning to cut street lighting in a big way. They are responsible for around 68,000 street lights across Lincolnshire, and they have plans to save money by turning some off at midnight, switching some off altogether, and installing low-energy dimmable bulbs in other cases. So according to their press release 17,000 lights will be swapped for low-energy LED lights which can be dimmed; 38,000 lights, mainly in residential areas, will be lit only until midnight; and up to 3,000 lights will be switched off altogether.

The chart on the left gives a good idea of the extent of this change. Meanwhile, ELDC is also looking at switching off its street lights. Within Louth ELDC controls only 29 lighting columns, including those in the Gatherums where there is CCTV. The district council is in negotiations with parish councils about whether or not they will switch off lights in the villages.

Cutbacks threaten a great deal of our lighting, so I wanted an expert's view of how that would affect policing and crime. Inspector Myszczyszyn's response was worrying: he spoke about the way burglars will avoid well-lit places. In his talks with local burglars he learned that two of their top criteria for targeting a property were whether there was an alarm, even if it's a false box, and whether the location was well-lit.

In my view these switch-offs could potentially widen class divisions when it comes to crime. We might see those wealthy enough to install good security lights doing well, whereas residential areas where few can afford to invest in external lights will suffer the consequences.

I'm also concerned about traffic safety, particularly when it comes to the visibility of bikers and pedestrians at night. Essentially these lighting cuts are going to have an impact on public safety and crime, and we don't yet know how bad things are going to get.


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