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

45 Pages Posted: 7 May 2019 Last revised: 28 Jun 2021

See all articles by Aaron Chalfin

Aaron Chalfin

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Criminology

Benjamin Hansen

University of Oregon - Department of Economics; NBER; IZA

Jason Lerner

University of Chicago

Lucie Parker

University of Chicago

Date Written: May 2019

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

Chalfin, Aaron and Hansen, Benjamin and Lerner, Jason and Parker, Lucie, Reducing Crime Through Environmental Design: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment of Street Lighting in New York City (May 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25798, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3383297

Aaron Chalfin (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Criminology ( email )

483 McNeil Building
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Benjamin Hansen

University of Oregon - Department of Economics ( email )

1285 University of ORegon
Eugene, OR 97403
United States

NBER ( email )

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IZA ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Jason Lerner

University of Chicago

Lucie Parker

University of Chicago

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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