A new study by the Chicago Department of Transportation found that the city crime rate increased seven percent when entire blocks of streetlights weren’t functioning correctly.
The report is concerning for a number of reasons. First, the city suspects that some criminals may be intentionally disabling streetlights to steal electronic parts, while others believe the darkness invites crime. Others say it’s a combination of both; criminals internationally cloak a street in darkness so they can carry out an illegal deed.
“When the lights go off, the shooting starts,” said Englewood resident Romona Burwell. “The next thing you know, there’s the police.”
Burwell added that the exposed wiring on some of the lights makes it easy for somebody to disable the light in a matter of seconds.
“They just reach up in and pull it down,” said Burwell.
The report also examined how quickly streetlight outages are fixed across the city. They found, on average:
- It took 5 days to repair a block of downed streetlights.
- It took 11 days to fix a broken streetlight if it was the only light out on the block.
- Alley light outages took 15 days to replace.
- Less than one percent of the city’s 327,000 streetlights are down on any given evening.
- Battery increased 18% when an entire block of streetlights were disabled.
- Theft, drug crimes and criminal damage to property also increased when the lights were out.
“We would look at the crime rate during the outage and then we would look at the crime rate in the exact same area but for periods just before and just after the outage occurred, so that way each area served as its own control and that made for a clean analysis,” Ph.D. student Zach Seeskin said of the study.
CDOT spokesperson Peter Scales said the study shows how important it is to fix streetlights as quickly as possible, especially when the whole block is affected.
“The conclusions of the study confirmed the practice we already have in place, which prioritizes the repair of full blocks of downed lights over single outages,” concluded Scales.
Related source: NBC News