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Reducing Crime Through Environmental Design: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment of Street Lighting in New York City

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  • Aaron Chalfin
  • Benjamin Hansen
  • Jason Lerner
  • Lucie Parker

Abstract

This paper offers experimental evidence that crime can be successfully reduced by changing the situational environment that potential victims and offenders face. We focus on a ubiquitous but surprisingly understudied feature of the urban landscape – street lighting – and report the first experimental evidence on the effect of street lighting on crime. Through a unique public partnership in New York City, temporary streetlights were randomly allocated to public housing developments from March through August 2016. We find evidence that communities that were assigned more lighting experienced sizable reductions in crime. After accounting for potential spatial spillovers, we find that the provision of street lights led, at a minimum, to a 36 percent reduction in nighttime outdoor index crimes.

Suggested Citation

  • Aaron Chalfin & Benjamin Hansen & Jason Lerner & Lucie Parker, 2019. "Reducing Crime Through Environmental Design: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment of Street Lighting in New York City," NBER Working Papers 25798, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25798
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael Pollmann, 2020. "Causal Inference for Spatial Treatments," Papers 2011.00373, arXiv.org.
    2. Tealde, Emiliano, 2020. "The Unequal Impact of Natural Light on Crime," GLO Discussion Paper Series 663, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    3. Stefano Castriota & Mirco Tonin, 2019. "Stay or Flee? Probability versus Severity of Punishment in Hit-and-run Accidents," BEMPS - Bozen Economics & Management Paper Series BEMPS65, Faculty of Economics and Management at the Free University of Bozen.
    4. Vranka, Marek & Frollová, Nikola & Pour, Marek & Novakova, Julie & Houdek, Petr, 2019. "Cheating customers in grocery stores: A field study on dishonesty," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 83(C).
    5. Maria Vogiatzaki & Stelios Zerefos & Marzia Hoque Tania, 2020. "Enhancing City Sustainability through Smart Technologies: A Framework for Automatic Pre-Emptive Action to Promote Safety and Security Using Lighting and ICT-Based Surveillance," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(15), pages 1-20, July.
    6. Domínguez, Patricio & Asahi, Kenzo, 2019. "Crime Time: How Ambient Light Affects Crime," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 9639, Inter-American Development Bank.
    7. Aaron Chalfin & Benjamin Hansen & Rachel Ryley, 2019. "The Minimum Legal Drinking Age and Crime Victimization," NBER Working Papers 26051, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H40 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - General
    • H7 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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