Burglars afraid of the dark? Crime falls when Bristol street lights are turned off
POLICE in the Bristol area have made a startling discovery – burglars are scared of the dark.
Crime has gone down in some areas to the north of the city since street lights have been turned off during the night, because thieves apparently need the light to carry out their crimes.
Parish councillors in Oldland agreed to the switch-off earlier this year which has already saved council taxpayers an estimated £16,000 in electricity bills.
Councillor Ron Hardie, who represents Cadbury Heath, said: “The police have told us they have not seen any notable increase in crime.
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“In fact, in some areas, there has been a reduction of 20 per cent.
“I understand from the police that burglars don’t like it when it’s dark.
“They like to be able to see their escape route and they like to ‘case’ a premises before they strike.
“They would attract too much attention if they were using torches.”
Police figures show that in Frampton Cotterell, the crime rate has gone down by 50 per cent, in Thornbury by 28 per cent and Bradley Stoke, 17 per cent, compared with a year ago.
With other areas of North Somerset and Bristol switching off their lights, it is hoped the trend of burglaries falling will spread.
A fear of increased crime and anti-social behaviour is one of the biggest worries among people who are against the switch-off.
South Gloucestershire police district superintendent Andy Williams said: “We have been monitoring the impact of part night lighting on crime as it has been rolled out in towns and villages over the past year.
“Our findings mirror the national picture, which is that part night lighting has so far not had any notable adverse impact on crime.
“Data from September shows that in fact many areas where street lighting has been reduced in South Gloucestershire have seen a reduction in night-time crime since the switch-off.”
Street lights automatically switch off from about midnight to 5am.
A similar programme has begun in North Somerset, while in Bristol the council is taking a different tack by replacing light bulbs with state-of- the-art LED ones which are brighter and use less electricity.
LED lights were recently fitted by Bath and North East Somerset council to street lights at the Hicks Gate roundabout at the Bristol end of the A4 Keynsham bypass.
Parish councillors in Oldland held three public meetings and notified 6,500 households before deciding on the switch-off.
They were one of the first parish councils in South Gloucestershire to go ahead following Charfield’s lead two years ago.
They are holding an open forum to discuss the issue on Thursday in Cadbury Heath Road, School Road, starting at 7pm.
In South Gloucestershire, there are currently a total of 4,000 lights which are switched off, saving the district council about £55,000 a year and which cut carbon emissions by 25 per cent.
The district has about 30,000 street lights, which cost £1.25 million to light each year and generate some 8,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
The council is hoping in time to switch off all eligible street lights, saving about £250,000 a year.
South Gloucestershire cabinet councillor James Hunt said the police figures showed that with careful implementation, part night lighting could significantly cut energy costs and carbon emissions without compromising community safety.
He said: “We have worked closely with residents, the police and town and parish councils to introduce the scheme and look forward to continuing this positive approach as the scheme is rolled out further across the district.”
Stringent rules are followed that automatically exclude some lights, including those at road junctions or roundabouts, as well as those in areas with above-average traffic accident or crime statistics.
Lights next to sheltered housing or 24-hour emergency services are also excluded, as are those near pedestrian crossings, subways, enclosed footpaths and alleyways.
In Bristol, council spokesman James Easey said: “We do feel there are savings to be made from converting all of our street lighting to more energy-efficient white light. This is why we are currently replacing around 34,000 sodium lights with new white lights.”
In the council’s budget proposals for next year which were published yesterday, there are £285,000 of savings earmarked from street lighting energy savings.
In North Somerset, the council has already begun switching off street lights and is planning to turn off hundreds more to save energy costs.
The council, which is facing cuts of £47 million, is planning to switch off more than 18,000 street lights by 2014 which is estimated to save at least £230,000 during the next two years.
The scheme is being implemented in three phases with more than 1,000 already switched off followed by a further 7,200 lights in the second phase and 9,800 next February.