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Program Profile: Street Lighting in Dudley (England)

Evidence Rating: Effective - One study Effective - One study

Date: This profile was posted on June 10, 2011

Program Summary

This is a program designed to reduce crime by improving street lighting in residential areas. This program is rated Effective. There were statistically significant reductions in prevalence, incidence, and fear of crime in the experimental area compared with the control area. In addition, a statistically significant higher percentage of residents in the control area reported knowing someone who had been the victim of a crime compared with residents in the experimental area.

Program Description

Program Goal/Target Population
New, improved street lighting was installed in one estate in Dudley, West Midlands (England), and monitored to see whether improved lighting reduced crime in the project area.

The program targeted residents living, and offenders operating, on poorly lit estates. Targeted behaviors included increased surveillance through increased pedestrian presence on the street, reduced offenses through increased offender perception of risk, and increased 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. Over 4 weeks in February through March 1992, old mercury lamps were replaced with 129 high-pressure sodium street lights. These lights were installed over 1,500 meters of residential roadway, at intervals of 33 meters. The lights met the requirements of category 3/2 of BS 5489, which specifies an average illuminance of between 2.5 and 6 lux. This installation more than doubled the amount of useful light. The program resulted in energy savings and reduced maintenance costs.

Program Theory
Theoretically, modification in nighttime visibility within urban areas can make a significant difference in fear of crime and crime levels and strengthen the ability of a community to supervise itself. Modifying the environment in this fashion should reduce opportunities for crime by increasing the perceived risk of detection, provided that informal social control and sufficient community cohesion exists in the first place. Enhanced visibility, coupled with personal investment in the area and interest in watching the public areas of a community, should increase pedestrian safety and reduce fear. Moreover, the process of responding to community concerns, together with noticeable investment in the public areas, by city officials can strengthen resident confidence, which, in turn, can heighten community cohesion and informal social control. In this regard, lighting modification has an indirect effect on crime and related public safety issues; its influence is mediated by collective neighborhood efficacy. As such, one of the most important indicators of the effectiveness of street lighting is the increased use of streets by area residents after dark.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Prevalence of Crime
Painter and Farrington (1997) found that in the experimental area that received improved street lighting, prevalence of crime decreased by 23 percent, compared with a 3 percent decrease in the control area, a statistically significant difference.

Incidence of Crime
Incidence of crime decreased by 41 percent (from 114.8 crimes per 100 households to 68.0) in the experimental area compared with 15 percent in the control area, a statistically significant difference.

Percentage of Respondents Who Knew a Victim
The percentage of respondents who knew a victim was greater in the control area compared with the experimental area (76 percent compared with 64.3 percent). While there was no statistically significant change reported in the experimental area, there was a significant increase in the control area. This change in the control area compared with the experimental area was statistically significant.

Fear of Crime
There was a small, statistically significant reduction in fear of crime in the experimental area compared with the control area. The experimental participants were less likely to say that crime was a problem or that there were risks for women who went out after dark.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Painter and Farrington (1997) used a quasi-experimental design with a nonequivalent control area to assess the effect of improved street lighting on crime in Dudley, West Midlands, in England. The experimental area was selected for relighting by the local authority engineers in response to residents’ complaints about its poor state of repair. The control area was adjacent to the treatment area and matched well on age of construction, architectural design, and number of dwellings (each area had about 1,200 to 1,300 residences). Both areas were governed by the same housing authority and had similar housing allocation policies; both had clear geographic boundaries.

The researchers conducted victimization surveys in both the experimental and control areas, which measured prevalence and incidence of crime 12 months before (January 1991 to January 1992) and 12 months after (February 1992 to February 1993) installation, which took place over 4 weeks, beginning in the 3rd week of February 1992. The surveys also measured residents’ perceptions, attitudes, and behavior. There were 431 participants from the experimental area for the preimplementation survey, which fell to 372 (86 percent) at the follow-up survey. There were 448 participants from the control area for the preimplementation survey, which fell to 371 (83 percent) at the follow-up survey. A formal power calculation was done to ensure this sample size was adequate. High-quality statistical adjustment was done for the two variables on which there was nonequivalence between groups at pretest (age of residents and amount of visible policing).

The surveys were conducted through face-to-face interviews 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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Painter and Farrington (1999) demonstrated that the monetary benefits from crime reduction exceeded the monetary costs of improved street lighting. The capital costs of the improved street lighting in Dudley totaled £55,000. Since the improvements were projected to last 20 years, the researchers calculated the yearly cost at £5,602. The annual maintenance and energy costs for the new lights totaled £2,611 per year, compared to £2,796 per year with the old lights. This represents an annual savings, which brings the costs for the new lights to £5,417 per year. The researchers then calculated the total savings from prevented crimes, which amounted to £136,266 in property loss alone, and amounted to £237,794 when all tangible losses were taken into account. The cost–benefit ratio after 1 year was 4.3 to 1 (£237,794 divided by £54,815), though when all 20 years were taken into account, the cost–benefit ratio would be 44 to 1 (£237,794 divided by £5,417).
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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. 1997. “The Crime-Reducing Effect of Improved Street Lighting: The Dudley Project.” In R.V. Clarke (ed.). Situational Crime Prevention: Successful Case Studies. Second ed. Gilderland, N.Y.: Harrow and Heston, 209–26.
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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 Farrington. 2001. “Evaluating Situational Crime Prevention Using a Young Person’s Survey.” British Journal of Criminology. 41:266–84.

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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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Improved Street Lighting
A crime prevention strategy that aims to improve the lighting on streets to reduce crime through modifying and improving environmental measures. The practice is rated Promising for reducing crime and property offenses, but rated No Effects for violent offenses.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Property offenses
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Violent offenses
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Program Snapshot

Gender: Both

Geography: Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting

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

Current Program Status: Not Active

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