Police backing for St Albans street-light policy

PUBLISHED: 12:01 23 February 2012

Street lights in Wheathampstead.

Street lights in Wheathampstead.

Archant

THE controversial street light switch-off has not led to an increase in crime in other parts of the county, police claim, and if it does Herts County Council will turn them back on.

Herts Police say there has been no link between the switch-off and changes to crime patterns or a rise in incidents between midnight and 6am.

They are working with Herts County Council to monitor the situation and agreed that if evidence did suggest that turning lights back on would prevent crime or promote security, it would be done in specific locations.

Chief Constable Andy Bliss said the force recognised the council’s need to make savings at a time of national budgetary restraints.

He added: “It is perfectly understandable that its street light programme will, however, cause people to question their safety and security, but we have seen no evidence that reduced street lighting results in crime increases.”

He said his officers would be patrolling every day and night of the year, on foot and bike patrol in lit and unlit areas.

Seeking to reassure the public, the police also highlighted the continued drop in crime levels in Herts and explained that the majority of the county – rural areas – had never had any street lighting and crime is no more of an issue.

A spokesperson said that most crime didn’t relate in any way to street lighting. Household burglary, she explained, was more common during the day.

But concerns remain about the scheme, which has been rolled out across the county and is due to come into effect in St Albans this year.

Residents were invited by the Liberal Democrats to view street maps showing the district’s roads affected by the switch-off last weekend.

One outraged father said he was horrified by the extent of the plans. With two daughters in their 20s who regularly walked back from their friends or the city centre after midnight, he said the plans had left him very concerned.

Dr Christopher Lyal said: “It is not unusual for me to walk back from the station after midnight and I’m not alone – large numbers of St Albans people return from London after midnight.

“In our area, drug use takes place in The Wick and Clarence Park; the heavy tree and scrub cover along Sandpit Lane demands lighting for security.”

He said he wanted to know whether any risk assessment had been carried out for the plans and what public consultation there had been. Another reader said she had discovered all the lights were due to be switched off in her street from midnight. The move will leave her particularly exposed in the evening when she returns from visiting friends.

Limited parking spaces outside her house means she often has to park further away and will be forced to walk home without the security offered by street lighting.

The switch to part-lighting is set to help the county council save £1.3 million annually and reduce the county’s carbon footprint.

The police have advised anyone concerned about the switch-off to contact their local county councillor via www.hertsdirect.org/your-council/

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