Friday, November 8, 2013

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Paul Marchant is a chartered statistician from Leeds, England, who is investigating whether or not brighter street lights improve traffic safety or reduce crime. He showed this image of a burned out car directly beneath a streetlight during his talk at the recent international conference on Artificial Light at Night.

Burned out car under streetlamp by Paul Marchant is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

The point of the photo is that lighting by itself can't prevent crime, and simply making lights brighter is not a very effective way to try to reduce crime. So far, Dr. Marchant has observed that changes of lighting in London have not had a measurable impact on crime rates. He worries that earlier studies showing effects due to change in lighting have been affected by similar problems to many medical studies. This includes publication bias (researchers are more likely to publish exciting results) and statistical errors (e.g. crime and fatal traffic accidents have been falling for years in many countries, so regardless of what the intervention is, you could incorrectlly see it as "causing" a drop in crime).

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