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Reducing Crime with Street Lighting in New York City

Last updated May 12, 2023

We find evidence that communities that were assigned more lighting ex- perienced sizable reductions in crime. After accounting for potential spatial spillovers, we find that the provision of street lights led, at a minimum, to a 36 percent reduction in nighttime outdoor index crimes.

This paper is ideal for civic leaders and planners when discussing and developing business cases for street and area lighting. This paper does an excellent job of analyzing the cost-benefit of improving lighting to address nighttime crime and safety for citizens.

Although this paper does not address advanced Smart Lighting controls specifically, Smart Lighting controls enable the optimization of lighting and energy use to minimize energy usage and operational management costs that can comprise as much as 30% of a municipal budget.

Key Findings

  • Accounting conservatively for potential spillovers, lighting reduces outdoor nighttime index crimes by approximately 36 percent and reduces overall index crimes by approximately 4 percent in affected communities, an outcome which is likely to be cost-beneficial, should the impact of lighting persist over time.
  • The 36% drop in index crimes identified in the study from is approximately what would be expected to occur during a very serious recession (Raphael and Winter-Ebmer 2003; Gould Weinberg and Mustard 2005) or in response to a ten percent increase in police manpower (Evans and Owens 2007; Chalfin and McCrary 2018).
  • We anticipate that the ratio of benefits to the costs of additional lighting would be approximately 4 to 1.

A companion video presentation by the authors may be viewed here:

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