‘Blackout has had no effect on crime’

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A petition signed by hundreds of Hemel Hempstead people won’t be enough to convince a top politician to argue for street lights to go back on.

Members of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) say they want Hertfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd to join their fight for light against the county council which has pressed the off switch to save money.

“UKIP does not accept the statistics at face value,” said Dr Howard Koch, chairman of UKIP’s Hemel Hempstead branch. “We believe we can collect evidence that shows crime goes up when the lights go off.”

UKIP has collected a couple of hundred names on its petition in the Underacres Close and Briery Way area of Hemel Hempstead.

It has invited Mr Lloyd to accept the names when it holds a street stall in Bank Court, Hemel Hempstead on Saturday.

The party believes it is pointless to approach Hertfordshire County Council directly over the issue.

But Mr Lloyd says although he is willing to receive the petition, he won’t be going in person to Bank Court to receive it from UKIP.

He believes the party is motivated to keep the issue burning for political reasons until the next election.

Mr Lloyd said: “Clearly if the constabulary feel crime is increased then the lights will go back on, but the evidence shows that crime decreases in dark areas as criminals prefer to work in well-lit areas and tend not to strike between midnight and 6am anyway.”

Mr Lloyd said there was a difference between what some people believed about the effect of lights on levels of crime and the actual evidence.

But he added that if it could be shown that crime increases in dark areas then the chief constable could ask the county council to switch the lights back on.

But Dr Koch, a dentist, said he believed the information people were giving them could form a scientific case to prove that crime rises in darkened areas.

Dr Koch added that if his party was in power at County Hall it would look to save enough money from cutting back on the council’s bureaucracy to turn street lights back on.

Has crime gone down since street lights were switched off? Write to the Gazette’s letters page. See page 14 for details.