Does your home back onto an alley? Mine does, and up until five years ago, the back of our garage was a frequent mark for petty vandalism and graffiti. We solved our problem by having our Department of Public Works install flood lights
that lit up our half of the alley.
Urban residential neighborhoods with alleys seem to be a higher risk for crime then a standard suburban neighborhood. While these service alleys are practical for utility use and a great place to keep trash cans, they are usually dark and out of sight. The darkness and lack of street visibility is what invites vandalism and other types of crime.
If your block seems to be an easy target for vandalism, installing an outdoor alley light is an easy way to discourage crimes of opportunity, such as vandalism, graffiti or theft. However, since these lights can be quite bright, a homeowner should first check with neighbors to make sure that no one has any objection. In our case, we discovered that our neighbors were also tired of cleaning up graffiti and were completely in favor of illuminating the alley.
For homeowners with alley facing garages, a set of directional flood lights can be attached to the corner of the garage. Directional lights can be adjusted to illuminate both the door and the alley itself, and provide extra security and safety for your family. These lights can be equipped with motion sensors or a photo cell, which will turn the lights on a dusk, and off at dawn. These floods lamps can be purchased at home improvement centers and most commercial lighting centers.
For properties with lots of alley frontage, a set of lights on the garage won’t be enough to provide nighttime security along the entire length of the alley. These larger properties may need one or two pole lamps placed along the fence line. The pole lamp must be tall enough to clear the fence and be able to illuminate the alley side of the fence. Pole lamps start at about $300 for the do-it-yourselfer and are also available through lighting centers. Having the pole lamp professionally installed will cost at least two to three times that amount and possibly more.
Lamps for free
A cheaper solution to installing your own pole lamp is by piggy backing a mercury vapor light onto an existing utility pole. Alleys tend to be full of utility poles and many will hold a commercial street lamp. And, having these lamps installed is as easy as calling the local Department of Public Works. DPW will scope out the best utility pole and then install the light so that it provides the most coverage. The cost of installation is free, but not the electrical use. We have the bill sent to us, and split the cost three ways with our adjacent neighbors. The monthly electrical fee for this lamp is $6.
Do alley lights prevent crime?
There’s been quite a bit of discussion lately about light pollution and if additional lighting is effective in preventing crime. From our own experience, the street lights made a huge difference in reducing vandalism and graffiti. The bright lights removed hiding places and allowed neighbors to identify who was loitering in the alley at night. The lights also made the alley a much safer place for neighbors to walk through on their way to the grocery store.
Tired of alley vandalism in your neighborhood? To find out if your block is eligible for a free street lamp, contact your city’s Department of Public Works.