Thursday, April 24, 2014

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Austin

City increasing light in crime hot spots

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TWC News: City increasing light in crime hot spots
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Walking the streets of downtown Austin at night is about to get a lot brighter.

Austin Energy's Carlos Cordova says the utility is working with the Austin Police Department to improve lighting in three specific areas downtown.

"It's going to be lighting that you sometimes see on a highway, for instance. That's how lit up this area is going to be," Cordova said.

Police have rented construction lights the past few months for the process.

"Historically, there's been violent crimes that occur during the bar closing hours, and we thought that lighting could be a factor," Lt. Patrick Connor with the Austin Police Department said. "We found that it drastically impacted the violent crimes, the minor fights. It impacted all of those."

Now, police are turning to Austin Energy to make permanent changes. They are replacing street lights with lamps that are 60 percent brighter and are more energy efficient.

"There is a lot of activity downtown, as you know,” Cordova said. “Good lighting helps increase safety and security."

One of the first places for the new lights is at Fourth and Red River. Austin Energy plans to convert its entire system over by 2015.

Cordova says Austin Energy is abandoning the amber-colored high pressure sodium lights and opting for LED versions. The new lights will also be focused solely on the ground to reduce light pollution.

Still, Austin Energy will roll out changes in cooperation with Austin police.

"There are large streets that are barely lit or have lights that are covered up by trees,” Connor said. “We are trying to illuminate those areas a little better."

Austin Police Department is picking up the cost of renting the portable construction lights, as well as the fuel to power them and manpower to set them up every week.

The new lights should be installed along parts of Neches, Trinity and Fourth streets within the next month.

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