Crime Lab New York (CLNY), a privately funded, non-partisan research center, and its agency partners, wanted to investigate if better lighting would decrease crime around New York City housing projects. After two years of planning, light towers were deployed between February 29 and March 7, 2016 to outdoor public spaces around the treated New York City Housing Authority developments. These developments remained illuminated during all nighttime hours for the six-month duration of this study period.
The study wanted to focus on four outcomes:
- Index crime complaints, which include murder and non-negligent manslaughter, robbery, felony assault, and property damage
- Felony complaints, which are defined using the NYPD law code
- Assault, homicide, and weapons complaints, which include crimes involving a weapon, and
- misdemeanor complaints
All of the complaint types were studied during nighttime hours, and had to be within 750 feet of a housing development where the new LED lighting was installed.
Among the study sites, researchers found what they call, “robust crime reductions outside at night”, especially for index crimes, felony crimes and, to a lesser degree, assault, homicide and weapons crimes. The study results show:
- Index crimes: 7% reduction in overall index crimes (day and night). This reduction in overall index crimes was driven by a 39% reduction in index crimes that took place outdoors at night.5
- Felony crimes: 5% reduction in overall felony crimes (day and night). This reduction in overall felony crimes was driven by a 30% reduction in felony crimes that took place outdoors at night.6
- Assault, homicide and weapons crimes: 2% reduction in overall assault, homicide, and weapons crimes (day and night). This reduction in overall assault, homicide and weapons crimes was driven by a 12% reduction in assault, homicide and weapons crimes that took place outdoors at night.7
- Misdemeanor crimes: No detectable change in net misdemeanor crimes in treatment communities.
An important part of the study is the cost savings from using the LED lighting for an extended period of time. Using “cost per crime” projections, researchers believe the economic value of crimes prevented due to LED lighting upgrades is expected to be $700,000 per housing development a year, just in crime reduction alone. Researchers added the broader benefit of crime reduction, like long-term effects of crime on a communities economic future, were not added to that $700,000 figure.
Based on just the crime figures alone and not taking into account the energy savings of LED lighting, and the replacement and addition of LED lighting will pay for itself in six years. Researchers added twenty years of LED lighting upgrades will provide about $10 million in benefits to community residents.