For the past few years, a growing number of councils across the country have been turning off street lights to save money. I’m not much of a late-night person, but apparently my own local council is now turning off hundreds of lights between the hours of midnight and 5.30am in the winter, and 1am and 6.30am in the summer.
But there are signs that this money-saving approach is causing major issues in some places. It was widely reported in the papers recently that police in Leicestershire have asked the local council to abandon these measures following a huge increase in break-ins as the nights lengthened in September and October. Now the lights will be back on through the night.
Surrey residents have also asked for a change. The council had started to turn off street lights between midnight and 5am, generating projected savings of £100m in 2017. But apparently some more affluent areas have seen above-average spikes in crime since the lights were turned off. One person is quoted as it having created a ‘thieves’ paradise’. So the council has now decided to change the switch off time to 1am, causing derision among residents as they believe this extra hour will make no difference.
So what can you do to protect yourself if you are in an area where street lights are turned off? One key thing is to leave your own lights on when you’re out or put them on a timer if you’re away, and also to install security lighting around your property. It’s also a good idea if you’re away to leave a radio on a timer.
According to the police, most burglars gain access by breaking down or forcing a door. So ensure yours are strong and secure. Glass panels on doors are particularly vulnerable, so either make sure yours have laminated glass or apply a safety film which is easily found in a DIY store.
Finally, consider installing a burglar alarm. These have been proved to be an effective deterrent. You could go further and install CCTV cameras: even dummy ones can stop the opportunistic thief who happens to be passing by your property when it’s dark. Anything which makes them think twice is worth trying.