Brighter street lights to help tackle crime in Southend

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Brighter street lights could be one of the solutions to Southend’s crime woes in 2020, the community safety boss has said.

Councillor Martin Terry said improving community safety was his key priority in the new year and a number of projects will be implemented including making street lights brighter.

It comes after the council undertook a £13.5million project to replace all of Southend’s 15,000 streetlights with LEDs which completed in August 2017. Along with reducing carbon emissions, the project is expected to save £25million over 25 years.

Mr Terry said: “We have a lot of specific projects coming forward in this year’s budget that I am quite excited for and I will be continuing to work with the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner to ensure that Southend gets the appropriate resources.

“We are looking at a number of projects that I can’t discuss until details of the budget are released but they will include improving street lighting by making it brighter.”

The administration has been eager to make improvements to street lighting in the town and in September, 60 new LED lamp posts were installed across five streets. These included Lymington Avenue, Oakleigh Park Drive, Leighton Avenue, Leigh, St John’s Road, Westcliff and Ruskin Avenue.

The works were funded through an additional £125,000 that was added to the council’s budget in July 2019 and a further £125,000 was also budgeted to continue the works in 2020/21.

The lights have been improved primarily for community safety reasons, despite a 2017 analysis by Essex Police which concluded there is no evidence that turning street lights off at night causes an increase in crime, anti-social behaviour or serious injuries and deaths on the roads.

When the research was published, Roger Hirst, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “I have heard that many people feel say they feel safer when the lights are on but councils need to take decisions on hard evidence and the data shows no overall impact on crime or road safety of lights being turned off at night.”

Mr Terry dismissed the analysis.

He said: “Other authorities have started switching the lights back on due to public pressure. I am proud that Southend installed energy efficient lighting a few years ago rather than turning the lights off like they did in the rest of Essex, we totally oppose doing that.

“The parliamentary lighting lobby have made it clear that better street lighting is better for community safety and security.

He added: I am surprised that someone responsible for community safety in the county is suggesting that having good street lighting doesn’t make a difference.”

In November Basildon Council and Essex County Council agreed to stop turning off lights between 1am and 5am. The agreement for all night lighting between the two authorities will be in place until March when it could be extended.

Essex County Council is also set to follow in Southend’s footsteps by installing energy efficient LED lights during 2020 and 2021. The changes are being made under the pretext of improved safety.

More details on Southend’s projects for 2020 are expected to be revealed in the council’s budget in the coming months.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter