Sunday, January 8, 2017

[Sonoma County] CrimeBeat: Is there a reason why Santa Rosa streets are so dark at night?

Blog note: this article references a 2012-13 grand jury report.
CrimeBeat Q&A is a weekly feature where police reporter Julie Johnson answers readers’ questions about local crimes and the law.
Can someone please tell me why it is so dark on the streets at night in Santa Rosa? There was an article saying that the city was turning the darkened street lights back on starting in June of 2016, but it’s still dangerously dark from a driving standpoint. Also, dark neighborhoods are a real come-on to thieves.
— Tanya Tatum, Santa Rosa
If a street light isn’t on at night, it’s probably broken, said Jason Nutt, Santa Rosa’s director of Transportation and Public Works.
That wasn’t necessarily the case before last June. Between 2009 and last year, the city darkened thousands of street lights in one of the most visible cost savings programs during the city’s budget crisis.
All told, the city turned off just over 3,500 of 16,000 street lights in the Santa Rosa Junior College, Fountaingrove, Montecito Heights, Rincon Valley and Bennett Valley neighborhoods, as well as in Oakmont and the northwest area. The city also installed timers on about 1,100 street lights to shut them off at midnight and turn them on again from 5:30 a.m. until daybreak. Most street lights have sensors that activate the lights when it gets dark and shut them off when the sky lightens in the morning.
Research on whether dark streets invite crime is mixed. But Santa Rosa’s public works and police departments found no increase in crime in areas where the street lights were turned off, according to the Sonoma County Grand Jury’s 2012-2013 report.
Santa Rosa’s public works department estimated the reductions would halve the annual $800,000 street lighting bill. A final estimate of how much money was saved wasn’t available Tuesday.
The five-year cost savings program has ended, and the city finished gradually reactivating those darkened lights in June, Nutt said.
So why do some streets still seem dark? Although the city is in better financial health, it doesn’t have the staff to ensure every light is working and relies on residents to report street light issues.
“If no one has reported it, we might not know about it,” Nutt said.
January 4, 2017
The Press Democrat
By Julie Johnson

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