Practice Goals/Practice Components
Interventions that focus on improving street lighting aim to prevent crime by modifying an environment and reducing opportunities for offenders to commit crimes. These interventions may occur in public or private settings, such as residential neighborhoods, parking lots, shopping malls, campuses, hospitals, or various other facilities. Installation and street light components vary by setting. For example, in a neighborhood or residential setting, improved street lighting may include trimming bushes so that lights are more visible, or replacing old or broken lamps with new light fixtures to achieve the street light’s intended purpose. Through modifying and improving environmental measures in various settings, the overall goal of these interventions is crime prevention (Clark 2008; Welsh and Farrington 2008).
Improving street lighting to prevent crime is grounded in two main perspectives: 1) situational crime prevention, and 2) strengthening informal social control and community cohesion. Taken together, situational crime prevention and informal social controls hold that crime is influenced by environmental conditions in interaction with resident and offender characteristics. Therefore, by improving street lighting, the offender is believed to perceive greater risks of apprehension, while residents are believed to invest more in their community and thus work to prevent crime in their community.
Situational crime prevention focuses on reducing the opportunities for crime, while also increasing an offender’s perceived risk of apprehension. It is believed that modifying the nighttime visibility within urban areas should reduce opportunities for crime by increasing the perceived risk of detection (Jacobs 1961; Welsh and Farrington 2008).
Informal social controls and community cohesion also play a key role in these interventions. According to Sampson (1997), a low degree of “collective efficacy,” also referred to as social control, in a neighborhood typically results in high crime rates. Therefore, installing or improving street lighting in an area, a sign of positive investment, might signal to residents that efforts are being made to improve their community. This improvement might lead to community pride and cohesion for residents. As a result, residents may have a personal investment in the area, causing an increased interest in watching over their community (Welsh and Farrington 2008).