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City's crime-curbing street light initiative coming to South Dallas

An eerie dark photo of a street lights and lamp posts illuminating the street at dusk. Many birds hangout at the connecting wires.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA
Street lights turn on at an intersection in Dallas, on Nov. 23, 2020.

Pockets across South Dallas have little to no street lighting. By illuminating dark areas across the city, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson hopes criminals will be deterred from committing violent crime.

The Dallas City Council recently received $500,000 from Grand Park South Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District's advisory board to add lights to dark city streets in South Dallas to curb crime.

"These lighting upgrades can help make our wonderful South Dallas community safer while also creating the conditions necessary for our residents and businesses to thrive in the years ahead," Johnson said.

City leaders say data proves lights reduce opportunities for crime. The city's lighting initiative, which aims to improve public safety, has been a top priority for some time.

The Mayor's Task Force on Safe Communities recommended the program, citing data from a 2019 report conducted in New York City’s high-crime neighborhoods. That study showed at least a 36% reduction in serious crimes committed at night over a six-month period when street lights were added to the areas surveyed.

Other research has found there is no clear connection between lighting in an area and crime.

A  2015 Rice University report that looked at possible links between crime and neighborhood street lights in Houston said "given the complicated relationship between streetlights and crime, cities should not expect a direct impact of additional street lights on reductions in crime.

In January, the city added 76 new lights to the streets surrounding Opportunity Park in southeast Dallas, which they say has helped reduce crime. Now, they plan to add 76 additional lights along key corridors like Jeffries Street, Meadows Street and Malcolm X Boulevard in South Dallas.

Dallas currently has 18 active TIF districts. The Grand Park South TIF District was created in 2005 and comprises neighborhoods south of Fair Park. TIF money is usually used to support developers pursuing specific economic development projects or public infrastructure projects.

Getting the funding approved for more street lighting took a couple of months and a bit of convincing. The city council made the case that the money being used for lighting would make a significant impact on the community.

"Exciting things are happening in South Dallas,” said council member Adam Bazaldua, who represents the area where lights will be installed. “These lighting improvements will add to that momentum.”

The city hopes to start installing street lights by the end of the year and estimate the project will be complete next summer.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about Dallas city government for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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