Smart lighting strike a perfect mix between enhancing public safety and energy conservation. The most recent data demonstrates that, rather than the reverse, turning off intelligent streetlights during specific hours reduces crimes involving vehicles.

The Guardian

It has been hotly contested whether lighting serves as a deterrent to burglars or merely allows them to see what they are doing. According to new research, it might be advisable to keep thieves in the dark in order to reduce theft from cars.

A reduction of over 50% in vehicle thefts at night

Researchers discovered that switching off street illumination between midnight and five in the morning reduced the number of nighttime auto thefts by almost half. The authors speculate that the results could be explained by the fact that lack of lighting makes it more challenging for criminals to observe valuables inside of cars or evaluate the security of a vehicle. It is also more challenging to remove objects like hubcaps.

The project’s director, Dr. Phil Edwards of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, explained that it had to do with opportunist thievery. Without lights, it is more difficult, for instance, to see the laptop accidentally left on the passenger seat over night.

Alterations to the routine of street illumination and their effects

The team’s analysis of data for various types of crime, such as assault, burglary, and vehicle theft, as changes to street lighting were made between April 2004 and September 2013 in Oxfordshire, Reading, West Berkshire, and, up until July 2013, in Wokingham is detailed in the study, which was published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology.

Intelligent streetlights decrease vehicle crime

Street lighting was changed from being on all night in three ways: by turning it off between midnight and five in the morning, by utilizing white lights all night, and by dimming it during the wee hours. The researchers discovered that although all types of crime were more prevalent at night than during the day, they all decreased over the years under investigation.

The study discovered, perhaps counterintuitively, that turning off the lights could have advantages. Once changes in daytime levels of crimes, which give an idea of crime fluctuations due to factors other than lighting changes, were taken into account, the rate of total nighttime crime fell by about a quarter and the rate of thefts from vehicles fell by 44% when street lighting was turned off between approximately midnight and approximately 5 am.

The team discovered that this change in illumination was associated with a comparable increase in vehicle theft in nearby streets that were lit at night, suggesting that the adjustment may have simply moved the issue to neighboring roads.

A general decrease in crime

When crimes committed at any time of day were considered, the team notes that turning off the lights in the early morning hours “was related with a drop in overall crime, burglary, and violence on both the focus streets and those adjacent.” The complexity of considerations regarding whether and how to illuminate the streets is demonstrated in the new work, according to Edwards.

According to other studies, “it is evident that people prefer street lighting because it increases their sense of safety.” However, research like ours demonstrates that the impacts of street illumination aren’t always obvious.

What does this mean for my city, then?

It is evident that turning off the lamps reduces vehicle thefts at night. Some cities, however, do not favor entirely turning off the lamps. Here, intelligent street lighting shows to be useful.

The lighting operator can plan streetlights to dim or, though it is undesired, totally turn off for specific periods of time by deploying intelligent exterior light controllers, all from a centralized location. Each streetlight may also be monitored and managed, and if the dimming or turning-off schedule is ineffective, they can easily change the illumination needs using a straightforward online application.

There are several more benefits of smart streetlights in addition to increased public safety and energy savings. These consist of:

  • Reduction of light pollution and carbon emissions
  • Safeguarding the native flora and wildlife
  • Control over the entire lighting system, which reduces maintenance costs
  • Establishing a solid basis for IoT and smart city applications

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