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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 to reduce the prevalence and incidence of crime by improving street lighting in residential areas. The program is rated Effective. In the experimental area, prevalence of crime decreased by 23 percent, compared to a 3 percent decrease in the control area. The incidence of crime decreased by 41 percent in the treatment area. There was a small reduction in fear of crime in the treatment area and no evidence of displacement.

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, prevalence of crime decreased by 23 percent, compared to a 3 percent decrease in the control area. This effect was statistically significant. The decline was even more pronounced among the over-60 population in the treatment area (44 percent decline). The self-report survey of young people (Painter and Farrington 2001) confirmed that young people had decreased offending in the treatment area.


Incidence of Crime

The incidence of crime (the average number of victimizations per 100 households) decreased by 41 percent (from 114.8 crimes per 100 households to 68.0) in the treatment area. This contrasted with a decrease of 15 percent in the control area. The individual categories of crime were also analyzed. Painter and Farrington (1997) found that the changes in the experimental area were significantly greater than in the control for vehicle crime, property crime, personal crime, and all crime.


Percentage of Respondents Who Knew a Victim

This did not change in the experimental area, but increased substantially in the control area.


Fear of Crime

There was a small reduction in fear of crime in the treatment area compared to the control area. The experimental participants were significantly less likely to say that crime was a problem or that there were risks for women going out after dark. Pedestrian street use increased after the lighting installation; more women used the streets after dark in the experimental area (an increase of 27.7 percent) compared to the control area (a decrease of 21.2 percent). Participants in the experimental area were also significantly more likely to say postintervention that their estate was safe after dark and that the quality of life had improved. The experimental sample was somewhat more satisfied with their estate after the intervention (65.6 percent versus 59.6 percent), although this difference was not statistically significant.


The self-report survey of young people (Painter and Farrington 2001) indicated that young people also thought crime had decreased more in the experimental area and that their fear of crime after dark had also decreased more in the experimental area.



There was no evidence that spatial, temporal, or target displacement occurred.

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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.


A separate survey of young people (Painter and Farrington 2001) was also conducted to determine whether anticipated decreases in crime in the experimental estate could also be detected in the self-report survey of young people. The “before” survey included 140 young people in the experimental area and 167 in the control area. In the “after” survey, 170 young people from the experimental area (104 from the previous round) and 164 from the control area (113 from the previous round) were interviewed. These interviews were also conducted in person and lasted 60 to 90 minutes.

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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