Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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Fostoria brings crime out of the shadows

FOSTORIA - From her house, Kay Thompson looks out at the alley where, she says, “people hung around,” before the city turned the night into day.

“They put two of those bright lights in our alley. Now our backyard stays lit like daytime. Ain't nobody gonna hang around out there at night now,” she said.

The bright lights are the latest crime-fighting scheme of Fostoria's administration. Certain areas judged to be high-crime neighborhoods now are bathed in the glow of super bright street lamps.

“Drug dealers and criminals are like cockroaches - they don't like light. Put some bright light on their street corner and they scurry away,” said John Davoli, Fostoria's mayor.

The new lights are rated at 20,000, 30,000, and even 50,000 lumens and replace or shine beside typical street lights of 9,000 lumens.

The new lights double, and in some cases quadruple, the brightness of regular street lights, Safety-service Director Ralph Wise said.

Mr. Davoli said the bright lights in those areas are just one tool to reduce crime. “We know this action will not solve all drug and crime problems, but if we keep doing things like this, we can eventually solve some problems,” he said.

City officials met with American Electric Power Co. experts to plan the new lighting. The power firm installed the lights after police identified areas of night crime activity.

“Police know where they see suspicious people loitering, and we listened to neighbors who complained of illegal activity on the streets,” Mr. Wise said.

For her part, Mrs. Thompson, who lives on Crocker Street, couldn't be happier. “It was pretty dark in the street and alley. We put our own lights out back to keep people from hanging around but they still did,” she said.

“We live in an area bad for drugs. When you got drugs, you got people hanging around in the dark. Now, it's so bright we can turn one of our lights off and save on the electric bill.”

Bright is right. “A lot of people have told us they can read the newspaper at night without turning on their living room lights,” Mr. Wise said.

Feedback from residents has been good, the safety service director said. “Police and residents like it bright. I don't know if the drug dealers like it. We hope not,” he said.

Mayor Davoli said the brighter lights make street corners safer all around. “Police can see cars, see license plates, see people. It's much safer for them,” he said.

The brighter lights have been installed in the area of Crocker and Poplar streets, including parts of Potter and East Tiffin streets, and Taft Boulevard.

Funding came from the city's street light budget.

“We estimate we did the whole neighborhood for only an additional $200 to the city,” Mr. Wise said.

Mayor Davoli said officials are considering lighting up other neighborhoods.

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