By MIKE WILLIAMS
Pulaski Town Council learned Tuesday that improved lighting in specific areas of the town may be more of a deterrent to crime than any security camera system.
Several months ago, council and staff began a discussion on crime and security in the town. Since then, staff has studied the situation and on Tuesday reported back on their findings.
“Councilman (Greg) East was interested during the budget process in looking at the possibility of obtaining security cameras. Staff has been investigating that possibility,” Town Manager Darlene Burcham said.
“We’ve also been looking at what we can do to light the town,” she added.
Pulaski Police Chief Jill Niece and Town Engineer Bill Pedigo reported their findings Tuesday.
Staff looked at crime numbers in the downtown “Pulaski on Main” area of town, along with different types of security camera systems.
Niece said security camera systems such as those in larger cities are very expensive when you consider buying cameras, maintaining systems and image storage.
She added they also looked at considerations of the environment downtown, such as trees and buildings; and considered issues surrounding housing the cameras in something to protect them from weather and vandalism.
However, lighting, Niece said was found to be the big issue.
Pedigo said that while the downtown is fairly well lit, it is done so with a different type of bulb – mercury vapor bulbs.
Pedigo said the town has entered into a project with American Electric Power in which streetlights are being replaced with LED lights.
“We’re replacing streetlights on Bob White Boulevard and coming into town around Tractor Supply with new LED lights. They’re much brighter and cast off a real white light. So, we’re working with AEP and will continue on that down the 99 Corridor down into town,” Pedigo said.
“Patrols have noticed a difference in the light with the new LED lights. That would definitely have to be part of the security effort. Lighting is one of the biggest issues with surveillance,” Niece added.
She noted that some of the parking lots and alleys in town are lit now where they didn’t use to be.
“We need to make sure they are lit,” she added.
“We’ve gotten aggressive in monitoring where lights are not lit as they should be and reporting those to AEP and demanding they be corrected as soon as possible,” Burcham told council.
“Some lights that had been re-lit have gone out again, according to our police patrols,” she said.
Burcham noted that at one point more than 60 streetlights were out throughout the town. She and Pedigo have a meeting in a couple of weeks with AEP officials, she noted, and wants then to have a current list of what lights are out.
“AEP says traffic control holds them up with replacing lights because, according to new regulations they have to hire a private company for traffic control. After conferring with the town manager, we’ve offered the town to do traffic control. If we identify an area where there’s 6 or 10 lights out, we could follow them and make the process go quicker, smoother and cheaper for them,” Pedigo said.
Burcham added that in addition to just coming down Route 99, “we’ll be looking at areas where we think lighting is the most critical piece of prevention.”
“Well-lit areas are those areas that are least vulnerable to some of the behaviors that have been problematic,” she said.
But sometimes security cameras are also needed, she noted.
She said some time back security cameras were ordered for the Historic Train Station at a cost of around $12,000. While the order was put in months ago, the camera system is still not in operation.
“They’re waiting on parts,” Burcham noted.
Niece said the system on order will cover the train station very well and can be actively monitored by the police department’s communication center.
She said Lt. Sarah Grim of the police department brought a system to Burcham’s attention – a mobile system that can be monitored with a phone, laptop or iPad. The system includes auto tracking and can sense movement and direct its attention to that activity.
“That may be an option going forward,” Niece said. “It’s highly mobile and can be moved to different locations.”
One mobile unit costs about $8,000.
“Our thought is to have a comprehensive way to address concerns by putting a lot of emphasis on our relationship with AEP, getting lights we already have better lit and to stay lit, and have the police department identify areas that are not already lit that we should light, and then we’d like to suggest and recommend in the budget we purchase one of these portable units to experiment with and see how successful it will be. We may decide we’ll need a second one later on,” Burcham said.
“We need to light this community in a proper way. I told you some time ago that I couldn’t see as much of the fire parade as I thought I would be able to because we only have lighting on one side of Route 99 and Main Street. AEP is willing to look at adding additional lighting on the other side of the street.
“We need to look at the changing features in our community. Years ago, that shopping center probably had a whole lot of light that was illuminating that side of the street that’s not there now.
“Just like we’ve talked about maybe changing the travel patterns and whether or not we continue to have one-way streets. We have a different kind of transportation happening in the town today than we did when that was first put in place and the same kind of thing applies to lighting. There was a time when people didn’t want to have neighborhoods lit and they fussed about light shining in their windows. Today, they seem to want parked cars near those lights. I think we have to stay constantly in tune with what those changing needs are,” Burcham said.
Councilman East added that lighting also gives visitors a better impression of the town.
“Deterrence is great, but driving into a well-lit community feels differently than driving into a dark one.”
He said crime figures as presented by Niece show larceny, vandalism and trespassing “lead the way and are opportunity driven (due to lighting).”