What? Tell me is isn't so! Sorry it is so says a group in New York, we have the study.
This is not the news I expected. It is not the news I wanted to hear. However it is far more likely that this and similar studies will penetrate the collective understanding of even small town managers and planers. That is when you say more light bad, they will say more is better, because the conclusions of a New York study will become part of their collective understanding. It is news that utilities will want to hear, the merchants will cheer and the government will begin spending the future revenue. Our police chief will say, I told you so."
As you know even in the social sciences credible studies require math, statistical analysis, T tests degrees of freedom and the like. The math has to work even when the conclusions are questionable to reasonable people. So we have a study, using randomness, T tests and more that says-
We estimate that the introduction of marginal lighting reduced outdoor nighttime index crimes by approximately 60 percent and, by at least 36 percent, once potential spatial spillovers are accounted for. These findings provide the first evidence that the physical environment of cities and communities is a key determinant of serious crime.
The study involved changing the lighting in a random selection of public housing with the objective of
proving testing the idea that a small inexpensive change in the environment will change behavior. It is an example of the increasingly influential school that believes that we can make better citizens inexpensively and avoid police, courts and an off the curve prison population. An updated version of "Don't help a good boy go bad." Instead of taking your car keys (remember those?) you should put in more lighting.
That sounds as I am seeking to disparage the study and I would very much like to do just that. However, to do that effectively I would have to a lot of research because the authors seem to have done their homework. It doesn't come across as a neutral study. It strikes me as careful work by people who want a a particular outcome. That sort of bias isn't new but it is a warning flag. Not one that many local governments will see is my bet. I expect that I do not need to spell out my bias.
The study report is preliminary and there is an implication that the final report might be delayed. But it won't matter no one will read any more than the executive study. If you read it you will see some important reasons why it should not be taken as gospel fit for general application.
Los Angeles did something similar with lighting parks and recreation areas. The lights went in, crime in the parks went down. The papers had pictures of young people playing basketball under the lights. No one mentioned the police officer standing by the court or the fact that for the test there would be a cop on duty every night. There was no follow up.
If you think that all this will do is justify more night lighting in high crime areas you may be wrong. It is just the sort of thing that will illuminate position of many police chiefs who are quick to take credit if crime is down and to say the lights and cameras or an insufficiency of them are a key factor in whatever it was that happened. City councils will like it. Both sides of the isle will like it.
So there you have it. Using the very best science and statistical analysis we now know that when the lights go on crime goes down. I think we need to be prepared to argue the opposite. Worse you neighbors might like it.