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Lighting, Crime and Safety

There is no clear scientific evidence that increased outdoor lighting deters crimes. It may make us feel safer, but has not been shown to make us safer.

According to a 2011 study of London street lighting and crime, there is no good evidence that increased lighting reduces total crime.” A 1997 National Institute of Justice study concluded, “We can have very little confidence that improved lighting prevents crime.”

The truth is bad outdoor lighting can decrease safety by making victims and property easier to see. A 2000 study done by the City of Chicago showed a correlation between brightly lit alleyways and increased crime.

Streetlight Glare

Glare from bright, unshielded lights actually decreases safety. Photo by Jim Richardson.

In fact, most violent crime occurs in the light of the day by known attackers. And some crimes like vandalism and graffiti actually thrive on night lighting.

A dark sky does not necessarily mean a dark ground. Smart lighting that directs light where it is needed creates a balance between safety and starlight.

Brighter Does Not Mean Safer:

Outdoor lighting is intended to enhance safety and security at night, but too much lighting can actually have the opposite effect. Visibility should always be the goal. Glare from bright, unshielded lights actually decreases safety because it shines into our eyes and constricts our pupils. This can not only be blinding, it also makes it more difficult for our eyes to adjust to low-light conditions.