Porch light program improves safety
Poorly lit neighborhoods in Ogden, Utah, had residents feeling unsafe at night. Now, a program that helps residents install outdoor lighting is giving them a heightened sense of security.
Ogden’s Porch Light Program is the outgrowth of meetings between residents in some of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, the city’s police and public works departments, and its local electric company, Utah Power and Light. Begun as a pilot program in February 2000, Phase I of the project involves the installation of 600 porch lights in three neighborhoods.
Financed with a $120,000 Federal Economic Development Initiative Grant, the program relies on residents to install and maintain low-energy, high-output lights that come on automatically at dusk and go off at dawn. Residents pay for the electricity – about 35 cents a month – and are responsible for replacing the bulbs every two years. Most lights are placed on single-family homes, but multiplex dwellings with up to four separate entrances also are eligible for the program. Thus far, 525 lights have been installed.
Flyers announcing the program were distributed by community police officers, local inner-city Boy Scout troops, Neighborhood Watch groups, churches, schools and the county library. Newspaper and television coverage also helped boost interest.
City staff members handled applications and verification of property ownership, and coordinated scheduling and installation between residents and a contracted electrician. The city kicked off the program’s second phase this summer, during which lights will be installed at an additional 300 homes. Finally, Ogden is hoping that local sponsors will help it extend the program to residents outside the target neighborhoods.
“This is a form of CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design),” says local police officer Tony Fox, who covers the pilot area on his bicycle. “Whatever we can do to deter drug dealers and other mischief-makers is welcomed by everyone here.”
“The neighborhoods where these porch lights have been placed show a 15.6 percent drop in Part I (major) crime over the last year,” says Ogden Police Lt. Dan Greenhalgh. “Other changes in public safety, such as improved methods of community policing, may also account for the change. But the porch lights have become a vital part of concentrated efforts to reduce both crime and fear of crime.”