Street Light Outages, Public Safety and Crime Displacement: Evidence from Chicago

Aaron Chalfin, Jacob Kaplan, Michael LaForest

For more than one hundred years, street lighting has been one of the most enduring capital investments to maintain public safety. In this study we provide a comprehensive examination of the effect of street lights on crime, by estimating the effect of nearly 300,000 street light outages in Chicago neighborhoods on crime. We find that outdoor nighttime crimes change very little on street segments affected by street light outages, but that crime appears to spillover to nearby street segments during these outages. These findings suggest that crime may follow patterns of human activity and that the impact of localized street light outages can reverberate throughout a community. 

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