Surrey group looks at the right amount of light to deter crime

SURREY — Residents of Surrey were outraged last December when 53-year-old Julie Paskall died following a savage assault in a recreation centre parking lot.

The attack prompted calls for more police officers and stiffer sentences, but also drew attention to a need for better lighting in some parts of the city.

With lighting, however, sometimes less is more, according to experts on crime prevention and design.

Colleen Kerr, crime reduction strategy manager for the City of Surrey, said the city’s newly-adopted official community plan has added policies to protect its residents which follow the principles of CPTED: crime prevention through environmental design.

CPTED fights crime using community engagement, surveillance, property maintenance, physical barriers and other environmental tweaking –- including the strategic use of lighting.

“If not applied appropriately, under many circumstances lighting levels may actually increase crime,” Kerr wrote in an email.

“Adding lighting may only serve to draw people to the area.”

Greg Perkins, owner of Liahona Security and a CPTED consultant in B.C., has taught CPTED to RCMP, urban planners and municipalities throughout B.C.

He said a critical aspect of using lighting to prevent crime is ensuring that it’s evenly distributed.

“Using less light — if it’s evenly applied to the horizontal plane and has good vertical illumination — then retailers and municipalities can spend less money, use less energy and still create safe visual environments for people.”

Perkins said uneven lighting can create hiding spaces for offenders while putting a spotlight on victims.

“If a walkway is not a safe route and you’ve illuminated it, quite often we have assaults that occur along them because the offenders hide in darkness, just off the trail, and now they can see people come and go. They can pick their targets as they will.”

The illumination of space is very site-specific, Perkins said, but often simply turning off the lights in problem areas can serve to stop nuisance behaviour and crime.

“Most parks have bylaws that say from dusk to dawn, you can’t be in the park. So why would we illuminate a part of the park that only draws unwelcome users into that area?”

CPTED was a consideration for a Surrey community group called The Friends of The Grove, which last month organized a light-hanging ceremony in the wooded area close to where Paskall was attacked.

Group organizer David Dalley said he’s seen a lot more foot traffic through the area since the City of Surrey paid for and installed strings of timer-operated lights.

“It’s been a huge change. It just makes people more comfortable in the area, it brings more people into the area.”

Paskall’s death also inspired Grant Mansiere, a grade 9 Summerland Middle School Student student, to find out how lighting affects crime, after he heard people in the media criticizing the lighting in the parking lot where Paskall was attacked.

Mansiere received awards and scholarships for using RCMP crime data, NASA satellite data and his own research to come to some surprising conclusions while working on the project in his hometown.

“Where there’s high levels of light, there’s high levels of crime,” Mansiere said. “That correlation showed in both Pentincton and Summerland, and it was a strong correlation.”

Mansiere recommended property owners use LED lightbulbs installed into efficient fixtures that aim at the ground, and opt for lower-wattage bulbs when replacing them, in order to reduce levels of light pollution that may encourage crime.

Lighting also became a pressing concern at the University of B.C. campus last year following a string of late-night sexual assaults that prompted the university to develop a plan to address campus safety.

Doug Doyle, associate director of infrastructure planning at UBC, said he was part of a walking tour that identified landscaping as a key issue — there were concerns about places where an assailant could hide — but which also found gaps in the lighting on some major walking routes, often caused by the rapid pace of development on campus.

UBC has been installing more lighting and upgrading existing fixtures to ensure better, more consistent lighting on these routes, Doyle said.

CPTED also serves a purpose in retail, such as in Mac’s Convenience Stores, which follow the “best practices of CPTED,” according to Doug Hartle, spokesman for Mac’s Convenience Stores in Western Canada.

Hartle said the company’s practice at the 311 locations in his region is to not limit the lighting.

Tony Hunt, loss prevention general manager for London Drugs, said the retailer uses CPTED practices to ensure its stores are well-illuminated inside but also evenly lit outside, so shoppers don’t feel threatened by what lurks in the dark when exiting the stores.

In recent years, businesses in the United Kingdom have been experimenting with installing ‘acne lighting’, bright pink lights that highlight teens’ acne, discouraging them from loitering.

For more stories by the Province, click here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

BREAKING: Cloverdale McDonald’s employee tests positive for COVID-19

McDonald’s Canada immediately shut down the restaurant

Surrey kids get cooking during free SuperChefs camps pushed online by pandemic

‘Enthusiastic’ launch of program, which sees ingredient pickup at one local school

Southridge students raise $5,600 for hospital meal program

GoFundMe campaign funds two months of meals at Peace Arch Hospital

Court awards woman $143K for two Whalley rear-ender crashes, one by a bus

In both cases, Brigitte Bergeron’s vehicle was hit from behind while stopped at an intersection

Surrey RCMP searching for missing woman last seen in Crescent Beach

Milcah Kasomali-Chirumbwana last seen at 4:35 p.m. July 5 in the 12300-block of Beecher Street

Horrifying video shows near head-on collision on Trans Canada

The video was captured on dash cam along Highway 1

Fraser Valley woman complains of violent RCMP takedown during wellness check

Mounties respond that she was not co-operating during Mental Health Act apprehension

B.C. sees 12 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths

Three outbreaks exist in health-care settings

Lost dog swims Columbia River multiple times searching for home

The dog was missing from his Castlegar home for three days.

COVID-19: B.C. promotes video-activated services card

Mobile app allows easier video identity verification

ICBC to resume road tests in July with priority for rebookings, health-care workers

Tests have been on hold for four months due to COVID-19

Would you take a COVID-19 vaccine? Poll suggests most Canadians say yes

75 per cent of Canadians would agree to take a novel coronavirus vaccine

Abbotsford school vice-principal accused of getting Instagram ‘confessions’ page shut down

@A.S.S.S.Confessions page claims school officials contacted families to find out person behind page

Recreational chinook openings leave First Nations frustrated on the Lower Fraser

Limited recreational openings for chinook on the Chehalis and Chilliwack rivers being questioned

Most Read