Project sheds light on crime

By Jon

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Shedding light on crime and inspiring trust, North Charleston Police say a new crime prevention technique is already getting results.

Just two weeks ago, the Saddlebrook Mobile Home Park was a hotbed of criminal activity.

Police officers described it as a 28-day spike in crime - nine robberies, three vehicle break-ins, and a stabbing.

The crimes left neighborhood residents shaken and demanding answers.

"A lot of them thought the police don't care," community activist Lydia Cotton said.

But Cotton did not give up, choosing instead to work with the North Charleston Police Department to make the neighborhood safe once again.

After discussing the options, police brass decided to use a technique growing in popularity -- crime prevention by environmental design. {}

Patrol officers noticed that many of the break-ins were happening at night under the cover of darkness.

Department officials decided to brighten up the neighborhood with Project C.L.U.E, a crime prevention initiative in which officers and volunteers go door-to-door handing out free energy efficient florescent light bulbs.

The idea behind the project is that neighbors will keep their porch lights turned on overnight, brightening up the neighborhood and discouraging would-be criminals.

"We visited 364 residents, 292 light bulbs and we lit up the area," North Charleston Police Captain Joe Stephens said. "Statistics show when you light up an area, crime drops."

In just two weeks, residents say Project C.L.U.E has made the area much brighter and is keeping the criminals at bay.

"The neighborhood has been very bright." Connie Bryant said. {}"I think it put them on notice."

Richard Blackwell says he still isn't sold on the idea that light bulbs will deter crime, but his new bulb is shinning bright on his porch.

"It lights up the whole area and everybody has put it on their homes," he said. "So it's done what it's supposed to do."

According to Captain Stephens, Project C.L.U.E is doing much more than that.

"We haven't had a burglary there in two weeks so we are very happy about that," he said.

And while it may be too soon to tell if the lights will continue to deter crime, Cotton says the face-to-face interaction between neighbors and police has already helped inspire new friendship and trust.

Project C.L.U.E is less than a year old and already officers have already given out close to 2,000 light bulbs.


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