Report showing turning off street lights does not increase crime welcomed by PCC Nick Alston

Nick Alston, Essex Police & Crime Commissioner, announced he will not be running for another term in

Nick Alston, Essex Police & Crime Commissioner, announced he will not be running for another term in 2016. - Credit: Su Anderson

Essex’s Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston has welcomed a report showing that turning off street lights at night does not increase accidents or crime.

The report, by the Journal of Epidermiology and Community Health, has found part-night lighting, which is adopted in Essex, has little evidence of “harmful effects” on road collisions or crime.

But Colchester borough councillor Tim Young, portfolio-holder for community safety, licensing and culture, said the report conflicted with the findings of others, especially those from the AA and College of Policing.

Essex County Council currently turns off more than 70% of its 127,000 street lights between 1-5am, six days a week.

Yesterday, Mr Alston said the report, which looked at 14 years of data across 62 local authorities, was the first time it was possible to draw “reliable conclusions” from analysis.

He added: “While the report does not claim 100% reliability, it concludes there is no evidence part-night lighting has led to either an increase or a decrease in road traffic collisions.

“We now have a reliable study that enables us to say with more confidence that part-night lighting, when properly introduced and based on risk assessment, has no adverse impact on the overall level of road traffic collisions – but understanding those risk factors is crucial and that’s what we are seeking to do here in Essex.”

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Mr Alston said the analysis shows general crime reduced slightly where part-night lighting had been introduced, though there were one or two anomalies.

He added: “The analysis of the data in Essex tends to support these findings, though I still consider the sample size of data we can work with in Essex to be too small to draw firm conclusions.

“We will continue to monitor local evidence carefully with the confidence Essex County Council will respond rapidly to operational requests from Essex Police.”

Mr Young, who was part of the cabinet that agreed to switch the borough’s lights back on in March, said: “It’s one report with a small sample size. It doesn’t change my opinion.

“You don’t make streets safer by making them darker.

“What we’re hearing, especially in urban areas, is that people want the lights on.

“It doesn’t change anything. Taken in isolation it may help the arguments of those who support part-night lighting but it certainly won’t change public opinion.”

Nigel Brown, communications officer for Tendring District Council, said a working party, jeaded by councillor Nick Turner, had been set up to look into the possibility of keeping street lights on.

He added: “I am sure they will be interested in the report and consider it as part of their discussion.”

An Essex County Council spokesman said the council would study the report with “great interest.”

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