Dark paths go 'hand in hand' with crime

Palmerston North's central city footpaths are too dark, providing plenty of opportunities for crime away from the glare of The Square.

The gloom has been spreading despite a network of lights under the verandas, which the city's Safety Advisory Board and police want the city council to rekindle.

Board members, Acting Inspector Brett Calkin and chairman Steve Williams, told the council's community wellbeing committee this week about 80 per cent of the area was inadequately lit.

Their estimate was based on an evening walk accompanied by council staff.

Roading manager Graeme Tong said the tour was "an eye-opener".

Apart from a few bright spots, such as outside the Manawatu Standard building and House of Travel, most of the rest of the area rated "very poor".

The council's own buildings, including the main administration centre, the library, Youth Space, and the Main St bus terminal were "very dark".

Mr Calkin said there was no doubt poor lighting went hand-in-hand with crime. An estimated 40 per cent of street violence happened in areas with a light measure reading of 5 lux or less.

The recommended lux level for public safety was 50 to 100 of suffused, white light from above. Street lights, spotlights and back-lighting from shop window displays did not measure up.

He said better lighting not only cut crime and vandalism, it made people feel safer and encouraged more "capable guardians" into the area, which in turn discouraged bad behaviour.

Mr Tong said about 1700 under-veranda light fittings used to be owned and maintained by the city's former power companies, and shop owners paid for the electricity they used. But in 1997 the light fittings were handed over to shop-owners to maintain and run.

The board wants the council to assume ownership and responsibility, as many lights were now broken, or simply not turned on.

Manawatu Standard