Street light switch-offs are putting stores at risk according to the manager of a shop burgled repeatedly during a local crime spree.
Hurst Green Bargain Booze Select Convenience Store in Surrey was hit four times in two months causing £20,000 of damage. The break-ins followed Surrey County Council’s decision to switch off street lamps between midnight and 5am.
Store manager Richard Connolly (pictured) told Retail Express: “We’ve never seen anything like it. Within a 10-mile radius we’ve seen 35-40 attempted shop break-ins in the past three months.”
Despite overall crime in the shop’s local area falling by 16% since the switch-off, when the street lights were turned off, crime increased by 20%.
After a store visit from a crime prevention officer, the council was ordered to turn the lights back on. Connolly said the order had driven a total change with no recorded crimes in the area since.
Surrey Police denied an overall impact on crime but told Retail Express that it requested lights to be switched back on in some areas to help disrupt and detect crime.
“The money the council planned on saving is nothing compared to the cost of tackling the crime it caused,” Connolly said.
It is not just Surrey stores that have been affected. A freedom of information request by the Liberal Democrats in 2017 showed 85% of councils have dimmed or turned off street lighting at night.
Kent, Leicestershire, Essex and Dorset councils have also turned street lights back on following police requests, while councils including Lincolnshire are understood to be reviewing light switch-offs following crime sprees.
Many local authorities used a 2015 analysis of crime and street lighting by the National Institute for Health Research to deny a link. However, the report does not take into account the time of day when the crimes took place, making it impossible to see the impact on crime.
Gaurave Sood’s Neelam Convenience & Post Office in Uxbridge, Greater London, was affected by a street light switch off. He told Retail Express: “I cannot believe that councils think switching street lights off will not have any impact on crime figures.” He added that the decision was made worse by cuts to police numbers.
Liberal Democrat local communities spokesperson Wera Hobhouse told Retail Express: “Our streets are being plunged into darkness as a result of cuts to council funding. It is a gift to criminals and a threat to
Many store owners are taking matters into their own hands. Harry Singh Hallen, owner of Londis Store & Post Office in Carstairs Junction, Lanark, said: “We have our own LED lighting outside to keep customers safe and to keep the area bright.”
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