As reported in today’s Sunday Globe, it looks like the town’s plans to turn off its street lights is back on the shelf. If you’ve been following this in the town paper and online, you know that Town Administrator Tom Younger worked up a plan to shut off street lights on most of the less traveled side streets in town, while keeping them on along main thoroughfares and busy intersections. The plan, as written, would have shut off around 1,600 street light, reduced energy consumption and saved money — around $178,000.
But the plan has been receiving steady criticism from residents since it was introduced. The biggest concern — voiced both by residents and the town’s police force — has been that the reduced lighting will increase crime. The idea here seems to be the “broken windows” argument — that dark streets signal reduced activity and invite criminals who want to strike without being observed. Given the recent spate of property crimes in the town, that’s not an unrealistic fear. As a jogger, I know that darkened streets also increase the dangers to pedestrians, so I can’t say I’m heartbroken about the reversal of plans on the streetlights.
The question now is: what next? In lieu of shutting street lights off, I wonder whether its time to replace the street lights with more energy efficient bulbs (compact florescent, anyone?) that will save the town money. And, while the town should do all it can to reduce energy use, the biggest savings will come from the Municipal Light Department encouraging more conservation at home — through peak use pricing and other incentives for residences to use energy efficient appliances, switch to solar and so on. My 2c.