Crime Lab New York New York City Lights Study

While New York City has made enormous strides in reducing violence since the 1990s, progress has been slower in the city’s public housing developments, home to half a million New Yorkers. Strategies that many believe helped reduce violence citywide—including efforts to predict “hot spots” and increased police presence in those areas—have presented challenges in the public housing context, where residents have borne a disproportionate share of police contact.

To begin to rebuild police-community trust and help keep these neighborhoods safe, New York City is looking to non-enforcement strategies.

One promising approach is improved street lighting, which may prevent crime both by eliminating dark spaces and by signaling new community investment.

Crime Lab New York, together with the New York City Police Department and the New York City Housing Authority, is testing this approach to reducing violence (not simply displacing it) with a randomized controlled trial of the impact of lighting on crime. This study will generate rigorous evidence about the efficacy of adding and improving street lighting in public housing as a non-enforcement alternative to traditional anti-violence strategies.