Lights, camera, crime-fighting action?

29Apr10

I once heard that adding bright lights to an area results in a significant reduction in crime. Simply put, criminals don’t like hanging out in the spotlight, even if nobody seems to be watching. Yet it seems like cities are much more interested in putting up surveillance cameras. Is this really the best approach?

Here’s a scenario to think about. In order for a surveillance camera to capture good footage, it needs sufficient lighting. So it follows that when cities put up security cameras, they also upgrade the lighting in the area. What if the additional lighting is the main factor discouraging crime, and the security cameras are just tagging along for the ride?

This is a classic case of correlation versus causation. Blanketing a city in surveillance cameras might be correlated with reduced crime rates, when it’s actually the corresponding streetlight upgrades that are responsible for deterring crime. Granted, I don’t know whether the actual data supports or refutes this theory. But when you hear about crimes being committed right next to a security camera, it certainly makes you wonder if that money would be better spent on fewer cameras, and a whole lot more lights.



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