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Effects of Improved Street Lighting on Crime

NCJ Number
Brandon C. Welsh; David P. Farrington
Date Published
51 pages

The authors’ main objective in performing this review was to analyze existing research evidence on the effects of improved street lighting on crime in public spaces as well as the overall impact of improved street lighting on crime.


Improved street lighting serves many functions and is used in both public and private settings. The prevention of personal and property crime is one of its objectives in public space, which is the main focus of this systematic review. There are two main theories of why improved street lighting may cause a reduction in crime: the first suggests that improved lighting leads to increased surveillance of potential offenders (both by improving visibility and by increasing the number of people on the street) and hence to increased deterrence of potential offenders; the second theory suggests that improved lighting signals community investment in the area and that the area is improving, leading to increased community pride, community cohesiveness, and informal social control. The first theory predicts decreases in crime especially during the hours of darkness, while the second theory predicts decreases in crime during both daytime and nighttime. Results of this review indicate that improved street lighting significantly reduces crime. This lends support for the continued use of improved street lighting to prevent crime in public spaces; nighttime crimes did not decrease more than daytime crimes, which suggests that a theory of street lighting focusing on its role in increasing community pride and informal social control may be more plausible than a theory focusing on increased surveillance and increased deterrence. The review also addresses displacement of crime and diffusion of crime prevention benefits. Publisher Abstract Provided