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Program Profile: Street Lighting in Stoke-on-Trent (England)

Evidence Rating: Effective - One study Effective - One study

Date: This profile was posted on June 13, 2011

Program Summary

A program that upgrades street lighting on residential roads and footpaths to decrease crime and fear of crime. The program is rated Effective. In the experimental area, the prevalence of crime decreased by 26 percent; the incidence of crime decreased by 43 percent; and vicarious crime experiences decreased significantly in the experimental area. Both prevalence and incidence of crime decreased in adjacent areas, indicating a diffusion effect. The study found no evidence of displacement.

Program Description

Program Goal/Target Population

Street lighting in Stoke-on-Trent, England, was upgraded in a residential area to see if crime, fear of crime, and resident perceptions would be affected.


The area selected for relighting was identified by the local council on the basis of perceived need. The program targeted residents living, and offenders operating, on poorly lit estates. Targeted behaviors included increasing surveillance through increased pedestrian presence on the street, reducing offences through increased offender perception of risk, and increasing care-taking of the area through improved community spirit.


Program Components

The key components of the program were the provision of lighting and lighting columns to provide luminosity that conformed to government set standards (BS 5489, Part 3). The lighting that was replaced did not even meet the minimum standard of the lowest of three lighting-standards categories. As a result, the new lighting created a fivefold increase in the amount of useful light.


From mid-December 1992 through mid-January 1993, domestic-type tungsten lamps were replaced by 110 high-pressure sodium street lights, which were installed over 1,000 meters of residential roadway at intervals of approximately 38 meters. Lighting was also installed on detached footpaths. The new lighting provided an average illuminance of 6 lux, with a minimum of 2.5 lux provided. The new installation almost doubled maintenance and energy costs.


Program Theory

The theory behind how and why street lighting works is comprehensively spelled out by situational crime prevention as well as crime prevention through environmental design (or CPTED). Specifically, increased lighting increases risks for offenders by increasing the likelihood of detection, both by formal surveillance systems and through natural surveillance. It also reduces the anonymity of offenders and increases risk of apprehension through facial identification. Street lighting can signal important investment in an area, which can strengthen informal social control and community cohesion.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1

Prevalence of Crime

The prevalence of crime decreased by 26 percent in the experimental area. All categories of crime, except burglary, declined significantly in the experimental area. The percentage of respondents who were victims of any crime also decreased by a quarter, from 57.7 percent to 42.8 percent. The prevalence of crime also decreased by 21 percent in the adjacent area, but this reduction was not statistically significant. Crime increased slightly, by 12 percent, in the control area.


Incidence of Crime

The incidence of crime decreased by 43 percent in the experimental area. The greatest decreases were for personal crime (68 percent) and vehicle crime (46 percent). The incidence of crime decreased by 45 percent in the adjacent area. Decreases in the adjacent area were significant for property crime (38 percent), personal crime (66 percent), and all crime (45 percent). The incidence of crime decreased by only 2 percent in the control area.


Vicarious Crime Experiences

Knowing crime victims and witnessing crimes decreased significantly in the experimental area. Prevalence also declined in the adjacent area (in some crime categories, these decreases were statistically significant). Generally, these rates increased in the control area.


Perceptions of Crime

Fear of crime as measured by surveys was not significantly reduced, although interviews indicated that residents felt safer and observations showed more people out at night in the experimental area.



Both prevalence and incidence of crime decreased in adjacent areas, indicating a diffusion effect. The study found no evidence of displacement.

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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1

Painter and Farrington (1999) used a quasi-experimental design with a nonequivalent control area to assess the effect of improved street lighting on crime in Stoke-on-Trent, North Midlands, in England. The experimental area was selected for relighting by the council on the basis of perceived need. There were no discernible boundaries between the treatment area and the adjacent area. The control area was adjacent to the treatment area but was separated by traffic arteries. The selection of treatment and control areas was guided by comparability, and assessments were made to determine if and how areas were comparable on multiple variables.


The researchers conducted victimization surveys in the experimental, adjacent, and control areas, which measured prevalence and incidence of crime 12 months before (October to mid-November 1992) and 12 months after (mid-November to mid-December 1993) installation, which took place between December 1992 and mid-January 1993. The surveys also measured residents’ perceptions, attitudes, and behavior. The majority of questions were similar to those used in the British Crime Surveys. The sampling frame for the study was the electoral register for the experimental, adjacent, and control areas.


There were 317 participants from the experimental area for the preimplementation survey, which fell to 278 (88 percent) at the follow-up survey. One section of the control area was dropped from the analysis due to extensive renovations in that area. Excluding that area, 88 interviews were completed in the control area, as well as 135 in the adjacent area. The follow-up response rate was 90 percent (121 out of 135) in the adjacent area and 92 percent (81 out of 88) in the control area. The relatively small sample size in the adjacent and control areas meant that changes in variables between the “before” and “after” survey needed to be quite large in order to be statistically significant.


The surveys were conducted through face-to-face interviews with residents that lasted 45 to 90 minutes. To reduce potential bias, interviewers were not informed of the lighting project or that there were control/treatment areas.

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A cost–benefit analysis showed benefits from this program. The annual costs (over 20 years) after the improvements were calculated at £8,952. The researchers calculated the total savings from crime prevention at approximately £103,495 per year. Thus, capital costs alone were covered in the 1st year in savings from crime reductions. Including the full capital cost, the benefit-to-cost ratio for the first year was 1.3 to 1. Paying off the capital cost over 20 years, the benefit-to-cost ratio was 12 to 1 after 1 year. These calculations do not take into the account the benefits accrued from the diffusion of benefits (that is, crimes prevented in areas adjacent to the experimental area). Taking these savings into account, the 1-year benefit-to-cost ratio was 2.9 to 1; the 20-year ratio was 26 to 1.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Painter, Kate, and David P. Farrington. 1999. “Street Lighting and Crime: Diffusion of Benefits in the Stoke-On-Trent Project.” Crime Prevention Studies 10:77–122.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Painter, Kate, and David P. Farrington. 1999. “Improved Street Lighting: Crime-Reducing Effects and Cost–Benefit Analyses.” Security Journal 12(4):17–32.
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Program Snapshot

Gender: Both

Geography: Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting

Program Type: Community Awareness/Mobilization, Community Crime Prevention , Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design/Design Against Crime, Situational Crime Prevention, General deterrence

Current Program Status: Active

Kate Painter
The Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge
Sidgwick Avenue
Cambridge CB3 9DA
Phone: 44(0)1223.763102