Lights out for our county’s criminals

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LATE night anti-social behaviour will be cut when yobs can no longer see each other in the dark, it has been claimed.

Suffolk County Cllr Guy McGregor was defending a new initiative to spend £2.5 million turning off street lights from midnight until 5.30am.

Bury St Edmunds councillors have claimed it will increase crime, one even going so far as to brand it ‘a rapist’s charter’.

The county council is investing the money in a ‘intelligent lighting system’ which will allow it to centrally control 55,000 street lights across Suffolk, turning them off or adjusting them in response to local consultation. The council hopes to achieve £500,000 a year in savings and reduce carbon emissions by more than 4,000 tonnes a year.

But St Edmundsbury borough councillor David Nettleton said he feared for people walking home late from the pub or work.

“What is the point of having street lights if they are not on when it is dark? If somebody gets murdered they’re not going to care about carbon reductions. It is just a rapist’s charter.”

And Cllr Frank Warby said he believed it would add to a problem of anti-social behaviour on Moreton Hall.

“I think it is a badly thought out solution to try to save pounds at the expense of safety,” he said.

Cllr McGregor, portfolio holder responsible for street lights, said: “To have street lights on into the early hours when nobody is around is a waste of money.

“There are a lot of people in Suffolk who will prefer complete darkness so they can see the stars with less light pollution.”

He added that trials of the light system elsewhere had actually cut nuisance crime.

“Crimes like anti-social behaviour have been cut because they cannot see each other in the dark. We live in one of the safest counties in the country. There is no evidence that crime will go up,” he said.