by Terry Rogers
On Monday, March 11, Milford City Council approved a Memorandum of Understanding with The HELP Initiative to begin a “Lights On Milford Strong” campaign in the City. The organization has provided the same services in Dover and Seaford as a method for deterring crime.
“Our organization will come in and install LED lights on the front and rear of homes located in areas designated by the City as high crime,” Harold Stafford, President of the Board of Directors of the HELP Initiative, said. “These are solar-powered motion detection lights that will come on at dusk and go off at dawn. The program is completely voluntary with residents who agree to participate signing a pledge to keep their front porch light switch on, encourage neighbors to participate in the Lights-On campaign and to report suspicious activity.”
There is no charge for the service and all lights are installed by volunteers who wear shirts branded with the Lights On logo. All of the lights installed are energy-efficient so the goal is to reduce energy consumption while also driving crime out of an area.
“Along with environmental design, lighting is one of the key components in deterring crime,” Sargeant Robert Masten of the Milford Police Department said. “A few years ago, around Halloween, we had an incident where many houses were vandalized in a neighborhood. We noticed that there was a pattern in the vandalism. Homes with exterior lights on were not bothered while those with their porch or rear lights off were damaged. The criminals skipped any house that had exterior lighting. This is an example of how important exterior lighting is to deter crime.”
In addition to promoting energy efficiency and reducing crime, Charles Kistler, Executive Director of the HELP Initiative, said that the volunteers also engage the community in other ways.
“Our volunteers can provide some outreach into the community,” Kistler explained. “We can provide information on voter registration and provide details on programs offered by the City. For example, we can offer information on the Smart911 system which can be critical if there is an emergency.”
In addition to occupied homes, the HELP Initiative will also add lights to vacant homes if the owners are interested. According to Kistler, crime in the areas covered by the program in Dover dropped between 20 and 30 percent. He stated that the hot-spots identified by Dover actually moved or shrank in size. The Seaford program was just recently implemented so there are no details yet on how crime was reduced. Councilwoman Lisa Peel asked whether the program led to crime migration where incidences of crime moved from one area to another.
“What we found was that when we lit up one neighborhood, those on the borders of those areas began asking where their lights were,” Kistler explained. “It is like a domino effect. When people see that a simple light outside their home keeps criminals away, they want to install their own lighting. Our goal is to light one house, one block, one neighborhood and one city at a time.”
The Lights on Milford Strong program will be conducted in phases. The first phase will include streets in the northern section of Milford along with a smaller area around Southeast Front Street. The program will then expand to areas surrounding the first phase. The majority of the program will be conducted in the Downtown Development District.
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