British Association for the Advancement of Science: Lights beat crime faster than cameras

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The Independent Online
IMPROVED street lighting is a more effective way of reducing crime on Britain's streets, and of reducing the fear of crime, than high-tech solutions such as closed- circuit TV cameras.

The British Association was also told that local authorities may have more power to combat the drug trade than the police, and police drug squads should be switched from trying to catch the leaders of the international drugs trade to trying to drive dealers off the streets.

Kate Painter, of the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge University, told the meeting that as a result of improved street lighting in one area of Dudley in the West Midlands, the numbers of all offences fell by nearly 23 per cent. Nor was the crime simply displaced to less well-lit areas - there was a 3 per cent drop in offences in an adjacent estate.

She also cited one project in Cambridge where, after closed-circuit TV cameras had been installed, 'women were still saying that they wanted more lighting'. The move had not decreased fear of crime and, for closed-circuit TV to be effective, the lighting would have to be improved.

Professor Philip Bean, professor of criminology at the University of Loughborough, told the association that the problem of drug trafficking was the streets. 'Once dealing becomes established, it becomes difficult to move it along.' He cited the example of the King's Cross area of London where, in one operation, police apprehended some 45 drug dealers but, within four days, drugs were being traded again on the streets.

The object should be to drive dealers off the streets and into their houses, Professor Bean said. They would have less contact with the casual user, and would be more discriminating about who they let into their houses.

Praising the King's Cross Project, a partnership of police, community and local authority, Professor Bean pointed out that the police had quickly discovered that the local authorities had more power to counter drug-dealing by closing buildings and hotels, and moving bus shelters.