Lighting : LIGHTING-February-2017
22 LIGHTING MAGAZINE | February/March 2017 February/March 2017 | LIGHTING MAGAZINE 23 Q&A Criminal-friendly lighting and a false sense of security WHAT IS THE LIGHTING AND CRIME MYTH? Longstanding conventional wisdom is that lighting things up at night makes an area safer. However, there is no reliable scientific evidence for this. In fact, my research indicates a small adverse effect. HOW SO? In 2002-3, I published a two-part report called Outdoor Lighting and Crime. In the first part, a literature analysis indicated that increasing light at night can certainly allay the fear of crime but the effect on preventing or deterring actual crime was uncertain. The second part relied on published crime statistics for dozens of cities around the world for which satellite measurements of light intensity were also available. The results contradicted conventional belief: at typical levels of street lighting, tenfold increases in lighting reliably produce increases around a few percent in the crime rate. Six weeks after I put my scientific reputation on the line by releasing the second part, there was a great blackout in the north-eastern states of the USA and Canada. In accordance with my findings there was a marked decrease in crime throughout the affected area. Studies in the UK and US have since confirmed that crime is not increased when street lighting is reduced. Regardless, Australian lighting standards continue to specify brighter illumination when the perceived or known risk of crime is higher. Unfortunately, this helps perpetuate the myth of lighting for safety and security while actually facilitating crime at night. It also opposes economic and environmental reasons to reduce outdoor lighting. WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS? Lighting for safety is so ingrained that often when reductions in outdoor ambient light flux at night are proposed, people throw up their hands in horror and say “I feel unsafe at night without a lot of light”, but it’s a false sense of security. If you have to walk outdoors at night, the chances are you prefer well-lit routes over dark ones. The feeling that light equals safety is so ubiquitous that it comes as a bit of a shock when you discover your feelings of safety are probably illusory; and, worse still, well-lit areas can actually encourage criminal behaviour. Dr Barry Clark is a successful human factors researcher. He has studied the controversial topic of lighting and crime. As we will see in this Q&A, he is passionate about the need for people to understand that popular belief about lighting and crime has been shown to be a myth. BY PENNY JONES Figure 1. The luminaire uses a ceramic metal halide lamp in a spherical luminaire. (All images from Illinois Coalition for Responsible Outdoor Lighting, USA) Figure 2. The”Victorian” acorn-shaped luminaire uses a high-pressure sodium.
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