MERIDIAN — The city of Meridian and Mississippi Power are partnering to shed light on dark areas of the city.
At the request of Mayor Percy Bland and the Meridian City Council, the power company has added more than 50 new street lights.
In addition, Mississippi Power has inspected each of the 6,600 street lights in Meridian and "changed out every bulb, every photocell," said Eddie Kelly, Meridian division manager for Mississippi Power.
The power company owns the poles and lights and the city pays Mississippi Power for their use. The cost of paying for the street lights from Nov. 22 through Dec. 26, 2013 was nearly $80,000.
"A well-lit city is going to be a safer city and a better city," Bland said. "That's one of the costs of having a clean, well-lit, safe city."
We agree. The money is well spent.
Bland said the push to add more street lights and ensure that those already in place are working properly is part of the city's effort to reduce crime.
According to a report by the Community Oriented Police Services division of the U.S. Department of Justice titled "Improving Street Lighting to Reduce Crime in Residential Areas" by Ronald V. Clarke, adding street lighting can reduce crimes not only at night but during the day as well.
According to the report, installation of new lighting in poor lit areas indicates that local officials and police are serious about crime; increases community pride and the willingness to report criminals and aids in the arrest of those committing crimes, which all reduce crime both day and night.
At night, improved lighting discourages criminals from committing crimes and encourages residents to spend more time outside where they can better keep an eye on what is happening in their community, according to the report.
The report also states, however, that better lighting can in some cases actually increase crime. The report cites one study that indicates improved lighting could allow criminals to better identify potential victims, "attract disorderly youths from nearby areas" and push crime into less well-lit areas of the city.
Overall, however, the report concludes that the benefits of improved lighting outweigh the bad.
"It is clear that reductions in crime can be achieved by improvements in street lighting and that these reductions will be most worthwhile in high-crime neighborhoods. It is also clear that improved lighting can reduce crime during the day and night," the report states.
"This suggests that improvements to lighting not only act as a situational deterrent to crime, but can also improve local community cohesion and pride, which in turn increases the willingness of residents to intervene in crime or cooperate with the police."
It makes sense. Criminals are going to be more reluctant to break into a car or home in a well-lit area than in one that is poorly lit.
Replacing burned out bulbs and installing new street lights might seem a simplistic approach to addressing crime, but sometimes the easiest fixes are those that work best.
If shedding light on high-crime areas makes residents feel safer and discourages criminals, then we are all for it.