City, campus need to see the light

CITY AFFAIRS: Lighting is an effective, low-cost alternative to reduce crime rates

Illustration of person being robbed while another person walks under streetlight
Lily Callender/Staff

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Will campus finally embrace the light and fully embody its motto, “Fiat Lux”?

Berkeley City Council is scheduled to vote on referring to a plan for installing additional street lighting to areas near campus. If the referral is passed, lighting will be installed in areas with high pedestrian traffic, which also tend to have higher rates of crime and injury, according to data gathered by the ASUC.

But policies advocating for student safety and increased lighting around campus have been in the works for years. Since 2016, ASUC senators have been conducting research on the need for additional street lighting, and despite the multitude of students who have advocated for improvements, little progress has been made. Year after year, students try bettering campus safety, but slow progress has left better lighting a distant dream. 

While it’s heartening to see that Berkeley may take strides toward implementing more lighting, campus should take similar measures. After all, it will take a combined effort between the city and the campus to see major improvements in street safety. This effort has to take place with near immediacy — Berkeley saw a 23% increase in violent crimes from 2017-18, so time is of the essence. Adding more lighting is a simple fix that can help decrease violent index crimes by a substantial amount. Student safety should be a campus priority, since students should feel comfortable walking home at all times of the day.

Although campus has instituted various safety measures, some are inconvenient to students because of time constraints. Previous ASUC senators attempted to increase Bear Transit routes, but these proposed plans never came to fruition, rendering Bear Transit ineffective for a significant amount of students. Other night safety services, such as door-to-door shuttles and BearWalk, require foresight to book them, which can be untimely during spontaneous circumstances.

Additional street lighting, however, is a simple solution that has the propensity to positively impact a vast number of students.

While it’s difficult to put a price on safety, lighting stands as the cheapest alternative to other safety measures. Students have expressed a need for brighter streets, a low-cost intervention that has proven to be effective. A recent study concluded that public housing developments that received new lights experienced significantly lower crime rates than those that had not received the lights. The motto is clear: Let there be light.

These reports and studies illuminate how increased lighting can be an efficient and productive crime-deterring measure. On Tuesday, Berkeley City Council has the opportunity to lead the way and vote on referring a plan for lighting. Hopefully, UC Berkeley will follow suit and give itself a brighter future.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the spring 2020 opinion editor, Simmy Khetpal.