There are always downsides to streetlights. They aren’t free, and it’s up to Ann Arbor taxpayers to pay for their construction. Even worse, the lights could exacerbate light pollution, which impedes the view of astronomy club students who stargaze atop Angell Hall on Friday nights. But these downsides don’t hold a candle to the improvements in public safety that a few more lights along Ann Arbor’s streets could bring.
Back in January, the Michigan Student Assembly scoured the streets near the Oxford and Hill areas as well as South University Avenue in an attempt to identify areas with poor lighting and call them to the attention of the Department of Public Safety. At the time, one MSA representative remarked, “It’s not going to be solved by a few of us walking around the campus.”
Indeed, it wasn’t.
The problem was recently addressed again by a group students working on a class project. Their organization, Make Ann Arbor Bright, studied lighting near campus. It gathered more than 300 signatures in support of more off-campus lighting, ultimately presenting its findings to the Ann Arbor City Council. The group reported that most mugging victims it interviewed said better lighting could have prevented the crimes.
Certainly, increasing lighting in off-campus neighborhoods will not be sufficient to deter all crime. Nevertheless, these lights may do more than just make streets brighter. At the very least, they will make students feel safer and more likely to walk around their neighborhoods. Urban planners like Jane Jacobs have noted that increased street traffic can also deter crime.
Students involved in Make Ann Arbor Bright recognized this public predicament and addressed the issue in a timely and constructive fashion – something that can’t be said of MSA. A few more dollars out of the city’s budget is a small price to pay for increasing the safety of its residents. The City Council now has the opportunity to act upon these students’ initiative, and it should install more streetlights in off-campus areas.