Dark Sky activists, campaigning to reduce light pollution by reducing useage of artificial lighting at night, have long scorned the common-sense idea that the easiest way to reduce crime in an area is to light it up. Now the city of Bristol, which cut back the number of street lights to save energy and reduce the carbon footprint, has proven them right, with night-time crime dropping by up to 50% in some areas. Why? Because it turns out that, like the rest of is, burglars like to be able to see what they’re doing.
When the issue of saving power by turning off the lights was debated by Oldland Parish councillors, the main concern was that there would be an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour. In the end, the decision was made to go ahead, and the city rates-payers saw immediate savings of £16,000 in electricity bills. The big surprise came when police anounced that the expected increase in crime had not occured. Instead, figures show no change at all, with some regions even reporting a decrease in crime. According to Councillor Ron Hardie, who represents Cadbury Heath, “The police have told us they have not seen any notable increase in crime. 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.
Of course, this should not surprise anybody – burglaries and similar crimes have long been known to decrease during the New Moon, when burglars have no help from the moonlight. But human beings have an innate fear of the dark. We learn to suppress it as children, but it never truly goes away which is why we continue to rationalise reasons for why we need to turn the night into day.