Police warning over lights switch-off

A MONEY-SAVING plan to switch off streetlights in parts of Essex could raise policing costs and increase fear of crime.That is the stark warning from Essex Police who have been asked to give their views on an Essex County Council trial which will see lights being turned out in some areas between midnight and 5am.

A MONEY-SAVING plan to switch off streetlights in parts of Essex could raise policing costs and increase fear of crime.

That is the stark warning from Essex Police who have been asked to give their views on an Essex County Council trial which will see lights being turned out in some areas between midnight and 5am.

It comes as Colchester Borough Council prepares to consider a motion calling for the proposal to be scrapped, saying there has not been enough consultation with district authorities.

Rodney Bass, the county councillor behind the scheme, has said it will save taxpayers money while allowing the authority to play its part tackling global warming.


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He disputes that switching off the street lights will automatically lead to an increase in crime rates, saying there are more deep-rooted problems in society.

A trial switch-off in Maldon and Uttlesford has been agreed and the council says it has been in discussions with the district councils and police.

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But now Essex Police have given a detailed report on the proposals, suggesting its costs could go up as a result.

Andrew Bray, acting inspector for the territorial policing department, stated: “Whilst Essex Police fully appreciate the county council's aims at reducing its costs and the potential saving for our communities, this initiative may well raise the cost of policing, the fear of crime, and compensation claims would be at the expense of those same communities.

“The salient question is can Essex County Council demonstrate that crime will not rise in a given area?”

Act Insp Bray also stated -

n Fear of crime is a material consideration with planning and must not be underestimated.

n Many of the county's elderly population will be “dismayed” by the proposal, causing their fear of being a victim of crime to increase.

n Turning off the lights could render some CCTV systems “useless” - with possible compensation claims for upgrading equipment or from people who become victims of crime.

The report comes as the Witham and Braintree Rail Users Association also criticised the plan.

Association chairman, David Bigg, said: “To turn out the lights at midnight as suggested would compromise public safety and raise still further the fears of crime, which most late night travellers suffer from.

“Train users will also find their local streets in darkness - we hope the council will see the light and forget the thing.”

But Mr Bass, cabinet member for highways, has told the EADT he does not believe streetlights reduce crime.

He said: “What we want to do is engage public debate about where and what exceptions should be made - it is not a case of turning off lights in the centre of towns, or underpasses or places like that.

“Where is the actual evidence that suggests lights blazing into the sky between 1am and 6am actually reduce crime?

“The question is, is there some other more deep-seated reason why it is occurring?”

Colchester Borough Council meets next week and will consider a motion calling for Essex County Council to scrap the scheme.

And Essex County Council's highways and transportation policy development group will also meet to discuss the progress of the plans.

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