NHA lights up Dwight’s night

With a half-dozen boxes of energy-efficient light bulbs and a bevy of informational fliers, Berry Kennedy ’08 spoke to a gathering of residents from New Haven’s Dwight neighborhood on Tuesday evening in hopes of educating them on ways to reduce crime in their community.

Kennedy’s presentation, given during a community meeting at the Union Temple Baptist Church, is part of a broader initiative launched by New Haven Action, a student-run nonprofit organization focusing on local issues affecting the Yale community. The initiative, known as Light Up the Night, hopes to prevent crime in the Dwight neighborhood by providing broader, more efficient street lighting for homes and businesses.

“Crime thrives in the darkness,” said Lt. Ray Hassett, a New Haven police officer who is district manager of the Dwight area. “The brighter it is, the more people can see, and the less likely criminals are to engage in criminal activity.”

Kennedy, who has been the director of the Light Up the Night Campaign since October, presented five ways that Dwight neighborhood residents can improve the reliability and quality of lighting around their homes at night. She encouraged them to call New Haven authorities in order to get street lights fixed, to trim trees that might obstruct street lighting, to leave their porch lights on at night, to ask their landlords to use solar timers for exterior lighting, and to ask area businesses to install more effective outdoor floodlights.

As a start, Kennedy handed out low-cost, energy-efficient light bulbs to residents who attended the meeting, inviting them to use these bulbs on their porches at night.

“In all, if you use these energy-efficient bulbs year-round, the annual cost should be about $10,” Kennedy said to the assembled residents.

Whitney Haring-Smith ’07, the executive director of New Haven Action, said he is confident that the Light Up the Night Campaign will help improve safety in a neighborhood where crime is an ongoing, constant concern.

“There is no silver bullet to solving crime, but this is a step in the right direction,” he said. “This is really the first example of a student group taking concrete action toward solving some of the problems that affect New Haven directly.”

Haring-Smith said that when New Haven Action members performed a survey of lighting throughout the local neighborhoods earlier this year, they found that the lowest lighting coincided with some of the worst instances of crime.

Curlena McDonald, a local resident who heads the Dwight Central Management Team and is at the heart of volunteer initiatives for the Dwight community, said she was pleased with the prospects of Light Up the Night.

Hassett said crime has never ceased to be a very prominent concern for the residents of the Dwight area, and that much of the crime there in recent times has been related to the dealing of narcotics in the streets and parks at night.

“Crime never takes a vacation,” he said. “This district has always had a vibrant history, and we had a very busy summer with a lot of juvenile crime. Luckily, we’ve started doing some proactive things.”

McDonald said she appreciates the efforts that students are taking through New Haven Action.

Kennedy said she is optimistic that Light Up the Night will be a success, but that further measures remain to be undertaken. She said she hopes that Dwight residents will be able to take community safety into their own hands.

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