With Uptown New Orleans residents worried about robberies, shootings and other attacks that have taken place between the victims’ front doors and their cars, they frequently ask police officials how to make the front of their homes safer.
District commanders and crime-prevention officers usually suggest that one important step residents can take is to make their home a less appealing target for opportunistic criminals — by cutting back any shrubbery that offers a hiding place, for example, and particularly by increasing the amount of lighting.
In a city that can take years to repair its broken streetlights, an Entergy representative at a recent community meeting where that suggestion was made spoke offered his own solution: For a monthly fee, Entergy will install and maintain what it calls a security light to illuminate any dark areas in front of a customer’s home.
On a Tuesday-evening meeting about public-safety issues, members of the Audubon Riverside Neighborhood Association asked Commander Paul Noel of the NOPD Second District his opinion about the efficacy of private security patrols. As he always does, Noel stayed strictly neutral on the question — saying that he doesn’t change his deployment around them and hasn’t seen any studies showing they reduce crime, but that if a personal security guard makes a resident feel safer, he wouldn’t tell them not to spend their money on it.
But, Noel said, he does strongly encourage residents to improve the nighttime visibility around their homes through additional lighting. Criminals like easy targets, Noel said, and will prefer to go where they are less likely to be seen.
“If you can afford it, it’s well worth the money,” Noel said. “Lighting is extremely important for what we do. It’s about prevention. It’s about keeping the criminal out of your neighborhood.”
Amid an ensuing discussion of how to report broken streetlights, Enrico Sterling of Councilwoman Susan Guidry’s office noted that calling 311 is a good starting point, but that the length of time it takes to get repairs depends on the severity of the problem with the light.
Kerry Jones, a district community service manager for Entergy New Orleans also in the meeting’s audience, then suggested that the utility has its own security lighting service. Residents can request additional security lights in a variety of models be placed on utility poles near their home for a monthly fee that starts around $15, Jones said. They can be aimed almost anywhere the customer likes, Jones said — as long as it won’t blind drivers — and is particularly useful for illuminating dark areas like back alleys.
Of course, street lighting is considered a fairly basic city service, but funding for streetlight repairs remains an ongoing issue between the City Council and the mayor’s office. After the meeting, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell (whose district does not cover Audubon Riverside, but is adjacent to it) said through a spokesman that the Entergy lights should be considered a supplement of sorts.
“I understand that people may be frustrated at the prospect of paying for lighting in lieu of streetlight repairs, but it should be noted that Entergy’s security lights are actually designed to enhance visibility even in areas where streetlights are functioning,” Cantrell said in the statement. “So, security lighting is not a substitute for streetlights, but can be used to deter crime and can be placed on utility poles and affixed to private property.”