Oakland looks to light to battle street crime

September 23, 2011 8:00:56 PM PDT
Oakland pastors are joining with city leaders to push for better street lighting in higher crime areas, but the issue is more complicated than switching on a few light bulbs.

Zachary Carey, pastor at True Vine Ministries in West Oakland, says his neighborhood around West Grand Avenue is relatively quiet during the day.

"At night, it gets really busy around here," Carey said, pointing out the drug deals, prostitution and even murders.

"If they increase the light, then it would be easier for everybody," said Carey. "You could see people, not like you'd have to get out of your car looking over your shoulder."

Carey and others partially blame the lack of street lighting in the neighborhood: Not only are there too few lights, but the ones that are around aren't very bright.

Oakland models its standards after the Dark Sky Initiative, which promotes energy savings and stargazing over light pollution across the country. A shield is put over a typical street lamp to keep the light shining down, rather than up at the sky.

"It's nice to see the stars at night," says Rev. Verletta white with Shiloh Church, "but I think what's more important are the lives of young people."

The Dark Sky Initiative has an exception for high crime areas, but for the City of Oakland, the larger issue may be whether brighter lighting is affordable.

"We understand the concerns of various people, and this morning we sent an email to the police department asking for them to identify hot spots," said Oakland Public Works director Vitaly Troyan. "Once we get a list from the police, we'll prepare a cost estimate and then it's all about money."

Vice Mayor Desley Brooks says it's an investment the city has to make.

"If we turn up the lighting in neighborhoods, that we would have to pay PG&E," Brooks said. "I say it's a matter of priorities. We pay when we have to have police come out."

A proposal by Brooks and council member Larry Reid to increase lighting in high crime hot spots goes before the city's public safety committee in November.

Load Comments