Lighting up the neighborhood

Kingfield board president proposes starting a program to fund motion lights for neighborhood residents

Whenever Erik Lindseth takes his trash out after dark, his neighbor’s motion light snaps on, piercing the darkness in the alley behind his Kingfield home.

“I look over to the house and wonder if someone is over there watching,” Lindseth said.

Lindseth, president of the Kingfield Neighborhood Association, thought criminals might wonder the same thing when hit by a sudden beam of light. At a September neighborhood meeting, he proposed starting a program to provide motion lights for Kingfield residents in the hopes of deterring crime.

Kingfield was plagued with crime during the spring and early summer, when robberies, burglaries and other offenses reached levels not seen in years. Crime in the neighborhood and throughout the city has decreased recently, but Lindseth said he has found interest in improved lighting among some Kingfield residents. The motion light idea came from a conversation Lindseth had with residents during National Night Out.

“We were talking about ways to combat the increase in crime in Kingfield,” Lindseth said. “This made a lot of sense and could be initiated at a fairly low cost.”

Lindseth’s idea is little more than a proposal at this point, but he said he would like it to take the shape of a grant or low-interest loan program, possibly using NRP money.

Kingfield residents could receive lights from the neighborhood association now through a community grant program that utilizes NRP funds, said Shawna Gibson, chairwoman of the Kingfield Crime and Safety Task Force. A neighborhood block can apply for a grant of up to $1,000 for items that could help prevent crime. Grants of up to $3,000 are available for initiatives that could be applied beyond a single block.

Boulevard plantings, alley speed bumps, lights – they are all grant candidates, Gibson said.

“As long as it’s going to have an impact on the safety of the neighborhood,” she said.

Crime Prevention Specialist Tom Thompson, who works in Kingfield and other Southwest neighborhoods, said there is no hard evidence that motion lights deter crime, but he recommends extra lighting around residences as a tool to keep the bad guys away. Many burglaries are crimes of opportunity, he said, and a well lit home might not appeal to a thief. He said he uses several exterior lights at his home – dusk-to-dawn lights are his preference.

At least one other Southwest neighborhood group believes in light as a way to prevent crime. CARAG residents can get up to $500 in a rebate for lights, electrical work and installation from the Front of House and Business Lighting Grant Program the neighborhood association offers, said Scott Engel, community coordinator for the Calhoun Area Residents Action Group. The one stipulation is that the lights be on the front of a home or business, lighting the street or a sidewalk, he said.

Lindseth said his lighting proposal is focused on brightening Kingfield’s alleys. He envisioned lights flipping on one after another as a potential burglar walked through the neighborhood.

“I think a burglar would be dissuaded,” Lindseth said. “It gives the sense that someone’s watching.”

For more information about Kingfield’s community grant program, call 823-5980 or go to www.kingfield.org.