Does light make people safer? Maybe. Maybe not.


17 Responses to “Does light make people safer? Maybe. Maybe not.”

  1. Doug Nelson says:

    So the most dangerous part of “dimly lit alley” is the “dimly lit” part?

  2. Bruce Schneier has written and aggregated stuff about this a couple of times.

    Here’s something he found in 2007 from the New Yorker:

    • Txchnologist says:

      Schneier’s stuff is really interesting Kent, thanks for pointing it out.
      I’d say, this Haitian example shows that there are a lot of variables involved in the lights/security discussion. As I noted in the piece, though, it was clearly untenable for a tent city with tens of thousands to stay in the dark. 

  3. hadlockk says:

    See also: defensible space. The idea that people care about their surroundings when they have enough of it to “defend”. Is there a chance that crimes go reported more often when security lights are installed, because they feel that the security lights entitle them to a higher standard of living? 

    Living in a poor, rural area, crimes might not go reported simply because they feel nobody (their government, either local or national) care enough about them to do anything. Perhaps by reaching out to the community and giving them a mechanism to decrease crime, it also gives them the voice to ask for help.

    Can we get a link to the sociology papers or grant proposals that were written to fund these projects in the first place? If you’re going to tag a blog post with “Society” and “Science”, I think a little more editorial effort is required by your readers than a link to a news story. With the information given, this feels more like a fluff piece.

  4. jerwin says:

    I hope that these lighting systesm are compatible with dark skies.

    • mccrum says:

      Looking at the angle the fixtures are at the answer is no.

      You’d prefer they stay in the dark then?

      • jerwin says:

        I think you answered your own question. You looked at the angle, and decided that, no, these aren’t compatible with dark skies. You didn’t base your analysis on the fact that these were, in fact “lights”.

        So… by your own standards, it should be possible to design a dark sky- friendly lamp, and that the choice between man-made light and starlight is a false choice.

  5. SpaceOtter says:

    The International Dark Sky Association has for years been advocating intelligent lighting, lighting that keeps the sky dark and addresses security concerns.  Adequate light is all that’s needed; too much light (“luminance overload,” as they call it) that is poorly directed can be a problem too.  Some of the larger cities in Arizona have dealt with the intelligent lighting/light pollution issue and left everyone happy.  Better lighting, darker skies, and lower energy costs are the result.

  6. Stefan Jones says:

    Outside safety matters aside:

    LED lighting means you can cook, read, do piecework, etc. inside your house after dark, without the safety and health concerns of candles or kerosene.

  7. Nicholas Piasecki says:

    A deserted, lit street is probably just as dangerous as a deserted, unlit street. A street with lots of eyes on it (pedestrians, shopkeepers, etc.) is safer, regardless of the amount of light, because there are other people on it watching for trouble. The lights on a lit street do increase the effective radius of the eyes watching it, though. So if a street has a few people watching it, then street lights make those people more effective at watching more of the street–more bang for the buck, increasing safety, so to speak. But if you add street lights and don’t add people, then the sense of security you feel when walking down the street is a false one. (I’m paraphrasing from Jane Jacobs’
    “The Life and Death of Great American Cities”–she says it much more

    • Philip Hades says:

      So being able to see an assailant a block away is the same as not being able to see an assailant until they’re feet away? Albeit anecdotal, my personal experience says I’ll take a lighted street over an unlit one any night.

  8. Palomino says:

    Reading this post, all I can think of is growing up watching old movies. In some of them, the bad man almost always stood under a street light. 

  9. lecti says:

    Of course street lighting will make the place safer.  What benefits does darkness provide for people who want to avoid trouble?  Hide like a ninja all the time??

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Of course street lighting will make the place safer. What benefits does darkness provide for people who want to avoid trouble?

      Unless you want to provide blanket coverage of pseudo-daylight (for a couple of months until we run out of oil), you create pockets of shadow for the predators and night blindness for the prey.

  10. Philip Hades says:

    Now if we would just reforest their half of the island…
    Haiti is just so screwed that every marginal piece of good news seems like a Biblical revelation. Makes you wonder if things are ever going to really change there.

  11. teufelsdrochk says:

    maggie, one of the more interesting things i can remember reading was the ieee’s inspection of the types of generators the US installed in iraq:

    Since then, it’s always been on the back back burner: what’s the correct engineering decision for electricity in iraq?

    they’ve recently taken another look re: afghanistan

    However, I still don’t understand how the amount of money we’ve sunk in these countries…we can’t fix the human problems, the political problems, but why can’t we make the right engineering decisions and get those people the electricity they need?

Leave a Reply