Dark Skies Cumbria

Saving Our Night Skies

Cumbria's dark skies allow us to see the natural wonder of the stars, but are also critical for the health wildlife and our own natural well-being. Sadly light pollution in Cumbria is increasing each year, threatening to obscure our view of the stars and blinding and confusing animals so they can’t feed or find a mate. We need urgent action now to stop light pollution. Stargazers, photographers, wildlife lovers and local communities… please help.


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There is a common assumption that criminals prefer to operate after dark, hence why people feel the need to put on security lights when they go out at night.

However, research published 30 March 2022 by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and University College London(1),  found that when street lighting was turned off between midnight and 5am, the rate of total night-time crime fell by around a quarter, while thefts from vehicles fell by 44% – once changes in daytime levels of crimes, which gives a sense of crime fluctuations due to factors other than lighting changes, were taken into account.

The study, which is published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, March 2022, reveals how the team looked at data for various forms of crime, including violence, burglary and theft from vehicles, as changes were made to street lighting between April 2004 and September 2013 in Oxfordshire, Reading, West Berkshire and, until July 2013, in Wokingham. Over the ten-year study period there were 283,275 crimes, of which 79,000 (28%) were vehicle crimes.

Lead researcher Dr Phil Edwards says: "We didn’t set out to find the reasons for the observed changes, but it is possible that when lighting is switched off after midnight, offenders consider that the costs of committing a crime, such as using a torch, would likely raise suspicion among residents and risk being witnessed, outweigh the benefits. 

"When lighting is switched off after midnight the streets are likely to be in near darkness, which means that any would-be offenders may find it challenging to see if there are any valuable goods left unsecured in vehicles, so offenders may choose to move elsewhere to fulfill their intentions."

Intriguingly, the research team found a 1.5 times increase in vehicle crime on nearby streets where the lighting remained on all night, suggesting some criminals were deliberately deciding to move to better-lit streets nearby.

Moreover, the team found no evidence that such lighting changes affected overall crime, burglary, and violence on both the focal streets and those adjacent.

Dr Edwards said the new work shows the complexities of decisions around whether and how to light the streets: “It is clear from other studies that people like street lighting, it makes them feel safer. But studies like ours are showing that actually the effects of street lighting aren’t that clear.”

This latest study builds on previous research in this area by Dr Edwards. Back in 2015, for example, a research project he led concluded that reduced street lighting in England and Wales was not associated with increased road-traffic collisions or crime.(2)

(1). Street lighting may enable rather than hinder street crime | myScience / news / news 2022

(2). Road Lighting and Vehicle Accidents | Friends of the Lake District