When faced with a big issue like crime, the Light the Night initiative—which outfits Toronto Community Housing complexes with new exterior light bulbs—proves the little things count.
Some of Toronto’s at-risk neighbourhoods are now sporting energy-efficient, compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs on their front porches, thanks to the Light the Night initiative. A coordinated effort by Toronto Hydro, Community Crisis Response Program (CCRP), Toronto Community Housing (TCH), and Toronto Police Service, the program aims to make these vulnerable areas safer one bulb at a time, while encouraging residents to leave their new porch lights on from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m to deter criminal activity.
“It’s about looking at safety initiatives and forming partnerships with the community to address safety concerns,” said Stephen Linton, community development officer with the CCRP, as volunteers began replacing bulbs yesterday at the 15 Canlish Road housing block in Scarbourough.
Aisha Farah, a George Brown student who has lived in the area for eight years, approved of the idea. “I think it will [help] because, before, people didn’t really turn on their lights in the front,” she said. “I think it will make the community safer, because you do need some lights around the neighbourhood.”
Light the Night focuses on TCH complexes and, so far, volunteers have replaced thousands of light bulbs across 14 neighbourhoods, with many more to come. Toronto Hydro has ordered 5,000 of the CFL bulbs for the summer and intends to use all of them.
“We actually just confirmed Regent Park yesterday,” said Gillian Earle, communications and public-affairs officer with Toronto Hydro. “We’ll be there on Aug. 10, and we have two more scheduled in the next two weeks.”
Numerous studies indicate that keeping an area well-lit can help reduce crime rates; a meta-study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice—that took into account evidence from the U.S. and U.K.—cited reductions by as much as 21 per cent when “compared with comparable areas.” (It should be noted, however, that the relationship between improved lighting and crime rates is difficult to quantify, and there is no guarantee that the former will reduce the latter.)
But, at the very least, the new bulbs will deliver a cost savings. The CFLs boast the same brightness level as a 60-watt incandescent, but only use 14 watts of power, and last much longer. The bulb replacements come at no cost to residents, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
“People who are maybe in a low-income status are concerned about household costs, especially energy costs, so they might be hesitant to leave their light on,” Earle said. “That’s why it’s important that we let them know that it only costs a penny a day to operate [these lights].”
After the volunteers finished their rounds, they fired up a barbeque and grilled hamburgers for residents; ice-cold water bottles were also enthusiastically received in the balmy afternoon heat.
“Residents are always really responsive, really engaged,” Earle observed. “They want to get involved—especially children and mothers. They like being part of it—and they appreciate that we’re doing something to help, even if it’s a small thing.”