Spate of crime in Hitchin blamed on streetlight switch-off

The streetlight switch off has been blamed

The streetlight switch off has been blamed - Credit: Archant

A SPATE of crime has hit a residential area, with one man blaming it on a council’s controversial part-night lighting scheme.

Martin Smith, who lives in Coleridge Close, Hitchin, says there have been several thefts and burglaries in the road over the past few weeks.

It follows acts of vandalism in the road in January – as reported by the Comet at the time – captured after the 44-year-old installed CCTV.

Mr Smith maintains there had never been many problems in the area with crime until Herts County Council implemented the scheme which sees streetlights switched off between midnight and 6am.

“Criminals are taking advantage of moving around under the cover of darkness,” he said.

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“It seems to be cars and garden sheds targeted. They [the offenders] took the hinges right off a young neighbour’s shed doors.

“One neighbour, who is in her 50s, came back from work late at night. There were no lights on in the street, and she saw someone in a hoodie who walked past looking suspicious. She was so frightened, she sat in her car for 30 minutes and couldn’t get out.”

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Mr Smith, who is unsure of how many incidents have been reported to the police, also disputes claims by the county council and police that crime has actually decreased since the switch-off.

“I wonder if the figures released reflect what the true figures actually are,” he said.

“With incidents like this, it does make you wonder.”

Herts Police said it had recently received reports of two thefts from motor vehicles and one attempted theft from a motor vehicle on the street, which officers are investigating.

All offences happened on Tuesday, April 9 and Wednesday, April 10, either at night or in the early hours of the morning.

A spokesman from the force said: “While it is disappointing that these crimes have occurred, there is no evidence to suggest that crime has increased as a result of the introduction of part-night lighting across the county.

“Crime in general is not related to whether street lighting is in place or not. For example, six incidents of criminal damage against vehicles were reported in Coleridge Close in 2011. Most of these offences occurred during the night when the lights were still on all night.

“It is important for drivers to realise that the main reasons offenders break into vehicles is because they are left insecure, or valuable items are left on display.”

A county council spokesman added: “We will be reviewing the part-night lighting changes in the autumn. The review will take account of the various views expressed by the public since the policy was implemented, as well as data from across the whole of the county following a full year’s part-night lighting cycle.

“We will also be asking interested bodies, such as the police, to give evidence.”

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