Blue Light District

   I recently came across an article detailing a new trend in city planning.  Recently public areas have been outfitting traditional streetlights with newer blue lights.  This fad began in Glasgow, Scotland in 2000 because city planners wanted to improve their city’s appearance.  Remarkably, this change in light color led to a decrease in crime in the affected areas.  While this could easily be attributed to a mere coincidence; the prefecture of Nara, Japan changed the color of their lights in 2005 and saw a nine percent decrease in crime rates.  Since then, other areas of Japan have followed suit seeing similar results, including in subway systems which resulted in reduced crime and the immediate end of suicide attempts in stations with blue lights.

One of the leading theories as to why this is happening is that people see this change in lighting as a symbol of the city taking increased interest in the area.  Another theory is that blue lights are seen as synonymous with law enforcement leading people to believe that they are being watched.  These theories fit perfectly with Jeremy Bentham’s idea of a panoptical society.  Individuals have internalized this notion of being constantly watched and see the change in light color as another example of societal surveillance.

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3 thoughts on “Blue Light District

  1. Very interesting indeed! I could see why this has led to a decrease in crime actually. Criminals, like everyone else, become accustomed to certain conditions when performing daily tasks. For them, this change probably does emphasize that the city is doing something different in these locations, perhaps paying more attention to the “blue-lit” areas, and therefore they are not as comfortable robbing in these locations. The idea of panoptical surveillance is the same: the idea of someone watching us all the time is much different than what we are used to. It doesn’t hurt that blue is a color synonymous with law enforcement either. I think we will see that in these locations it is only a matter of time before criminal rates start to deviate back toward the average unless they are actually patrolling these areas more than others, however.

  2. I loved this post! I have also never heard of this before but it is interesting because where I’m from (Baltimore), there have been blue lights added to street corners that have been known for their crime activity. Parts of Baltimore city are very poor and have quite a crime problem, so police have marked certain corners that have been recorded as a hot spot for crime, namely drug dealing, and installed cameras with a blue light above them as a means for surveillance. The surveillance part could be a whole post in itself about Foucault and panoptical surveillance, but I think that that here the idea of the blue light in particularly interesting. I wonder if it is in anyway connected?

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