Editorial: Detroit flips the switch on streetlights
The installation of new street lights throughout Detroit is a good first step in reviving the city’s neighborhoods.
No, new people won’t be flocking into the city just because residents can see a little better at night. But it may encourage some frustrated homeowners to stay put. And the lights are adding a positive and exciting atmosphere to the streets, many of which have been dark for decades.
Odis Jones, Detroit Lighting Authority director, reports the neighborhoods are nearly 98 percent complete, with final installations taking place in every ZIP code.
He too, expresses confidence that the new lights are bringing a fresh sense of community to neighborhoods.
This, coupled with residents feeling safer to venture out of their homes, may encourage retailers to return as well.
Residents have a right to feel safe in their neighborhoods. Police credit the addition of lights as an important factor in cutting down on crime.
Burglaries, larcenies, vehicle theft and other property offenses in Detroit are down 18 percent from the same time last year, police report.
Sgt. Cassandra Lewis, media relations spokeswoman for the Detroit Police Department, notes lighting not only provides safety for citizens but helps police officers investigate accidents and crimes.
“Everything works together to provide safer neighborhoods,” she says.
The lighting project is ahead of schedule and on budget. Jones rightly is proud.
One reason he cites for the success is the private-public partnership involved in the project. Workers include authority staff, DTE Energy experts and private contractors. Also, he says the fact many of the workers live in the city is important.
“When those who live here do the work, they’re accountable to their neighbors and that gives an additional push to do a good job,” Jones says .
The early finish in the neighborhoods has allowed the authority to move up its schedule for beginning work on Detroit’s major thoroughfares — a task that was expected to begin next year. That includes work on such streets as Michigan Avenue, Fort, Gratiot, Grand River and Jefferson. The lighting project is slated to wrap up by the end of 2016.
Lighting is the first step in reviving distressed neighborhoods. But much more is needed.
Neighborhoods must be an appealing place for newcomers and long-term residents alike. In addition to better police protection, getting there requires service improvements, good schools and a citizenry that has confidence in its government.
These tangible and intangible features will take time.
But the relighting project is a good start and the authority deserves kudos for doing its job well.