Police study finds switching off street lights in Essex has no impact on crime levels

Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Roger Hirst. Picture: MARTIN ROSE

Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Roger Hirst. Picture: MARTIN ROSE - Credit: Archant

Councillors in Colchester still want to see the town’s street lights left on at night – despite a report which says that turning them off has done nothing to make communities less safe.

Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Roger Hirst commissioned analysis from Essex Police so he could find out what effect switching off the lights for part of the night had on crime, anti-social behaviour and the number of people killed or seriously injured in road traffic collisions.

The move was made after a number of concerns were raised by residents.

Mr Hirst said the study found no evidence that turning street lights off at night caused an increase in the issues looked at.

However Mike Lilley, Colchester Council’s portfolio holder for public safety, said the report failed to take account of public perceptions – and most people felt far safer if street lights were left on.

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Mr Hirst said: “We have not been able to identify a noticeable increase or decrease in crime or road safety issues as a result of part night lighting.

“When there is an operational need for the lights to stay on, for policing purposes, say for example after an incident or incidents in an area, officers can make the request to Essex County Council for the lights to go on for a period of time.

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“This arrangement appears to be working well and is a good way of ensuring for the safety of Essex residents remains a high priority.”

Mr Lilley said: “I have spoken to the chief inspector to ask him to get the county to leave the lights in the Dutch Quarter – we have a busy night-time economy and people feel safer when the lights are on.

“I went out with emergency services at night recently and walked home through the Dutch Quarter at 3am and it was very dark, impossible to see potholes and it was quite worrying. People definitely feel safer with the lights on.”

However Mr Hirst said: “I have heard that many people feel say they feel safer when the lights are on but councils need to take decisions on hard evidence and the data shows no overall impact on crime or road safety of lights being turned off at night.”

Lights across Essex are currently switched off between 1am and 5am every day – except in Harlow, Southend and Thurrock where they stay on all night.

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