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.