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The Impact of Street Lighting on Crime in New York City Public Housing

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2017
34 pages

This report discusses a study to estimate the impact and cost-effectiveness of temporary street lights on crime and community well-being, as part of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice effort to reduce outdoor nighttime crime rates in and around the city’s Housing Authority housing developments.


This report describes the methodology and outcomes of a research study to estimate the impact and cost-effectiveness of temporary street lights on crime and other measures of community well-being in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) housing developments. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) identified which developments were priorities for receiving additional lights, based in part on their elevated crime rates and perceived need for additional lighting. The study randomized 39 housing developments into treatment sites and 38 developments into control sites. The research design allowed authors to determine whether the effectiveness of lighting diminishes as more lights were added to a development; the treatment sites remained illuminated during all nighttime hours for the six-month duration of the study period, while control developments received no additional outdoor lighting. The authors’ analysis focused on four main outcomes: index crime complaints; felony complaints, assault, homicide, and weapons complaints; and misdemeanor complaints. Results suggested that there were robust crime reductions outside at night, specifically for index crimes, felony crimes, and to a lesser degree, assault, homicide, and weapons crimes. The document provides a detailed discussion of the research methodology and results, as well as a cost-benefit analysis of the lighting upgrades. The authors also discuss other outcomes, including a reduction in indoor crimes and the results of a follow-up survey of residents in the treatment sites regarding their perceptions of the lights. The report includes an extensive technical appendix, with tables and charts.

Date Published: October 1, 2017