New Haven Civic Innovation Prize just awarded $7000 to Project Lighten Up

It’s late at night. You’re at a street corner. In one direction, the sidewalk is lit. You see down the road, a porch light turns on at the other end of the block. In the other direction, the light closest to you is barely lit, mostly covered by an overgrown tree. You can’t see the far corner of the street. Which way would you take?

“Light adds a sense of safety and security for the folks in the community,” Lieutenant Manmeet Colon, district manager for Newhallville, observed. NHS of New Haven works with the Lieutenant and the Newhallville Community Management Team in a collective effort to improve street lighting in the Newhallville neighborhood called Project Lighten Up.

The initiative began eight years ago out of a partnership between Alan Kendrix and Pastor Donald Morris. After reading stories about Newhallville shooting victims, Alan discovered a lack of proper lighting, whether a result of overgrown trees or the absence of functioning lights, to be a central concern of the residents in the neighborhood. “It’s useless to have lights if branches are covering them,” Lt. Colon explained. “They also serve a purpose for us (police) to view video surveillance and actually see the activity taking place.”

In response to neighbor concerns, Kendrix and Pastor Morris worked to raise money to install lights around Newhallville. Through a series of meetings with the City Engineering Department, eleven street lights on Lilac Street in 2012 received new LED lights and Project Lighten Up began.

The initiative seeks to use the installation of lights as a means to improve perceptions of safety and as a tool to help reduce certain rates of crime in the Newhallville neighborhood. “Lights make a huge impact on the criminal element,” Lt. Colon said, “No one wants to be seen while conducting illicit activity.”

Project Lighten Up is part of the larger approach of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). This approach identifies crime as a product of the environment and recognizes that environmental design plays a central role in promoting safety and preventing crime. “Lights can deter thieves or trespassers from entering one’s property for the fear of being seen and/or caught,” Lt. Colon continued. “Overall, (lighting) makes an impact on quality of life issues and improves it.”

The current effort to improve the lightning in Newhallville is an initiative to install motion detector lights outside of homes, encourage people to turn on their porch lights (including timers) and install NHS lampposts in front of and around NHS homes.

Currently, 60 lights have been installed in Newhallville for residents seeking clearer visibility outside of and around their homes. The lights are professionally installed by electricians to ensure they are installed correctly, for the highest effectiveness, and to last.

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