Laurel Mayor and Council members heard from a non-profit interested in helping the community initiate a special energy project that has proven to both save energy costs and reduce crime. Charles Kistler, executive director of the Delaware HELP Initiative, spoke to the council about the potential of launching a “Lights-On Laurel Strong” project.
The Lights-On project started in Dover in 2017, as “Lights-On Dover Strong.” The project has a mission of both providing the opportunity for low-income neighborhoods to have free home lighting installed using low energy, motion detection solar powered backyard lighting and LED lighting on front porches. While the project saves utility costs it also targets areas with high concentration of criminal activities.
Kistler said in Dover, 368 homes received the new energy-efficient front porch and backyard lighting over a three-month period.
“We installed the energy-efficient lighting in some of the toughest, most crime concentrated areas of the city,” he said. “Based on crime statistics from the Dover Police Department it was determined that by simply installing lights, crime was reduced.”
Last year, the City of Seaford expressed an interest in developing a “Lights-On Seaford Strong” project.
Kistler said his group, in a partnership with the City of Seaford, DEMEC, Sustainable Energy Utility and the Seaford Police Department, installed lights on 440 homes over three months. He said the project saved the city 26,000 watts of energy.
“We worked with law enforcement in Seaford to determine the areas where there was a high rate of crime,” he said. “We then went door to door installing the energy efficient LED lighting on the front porch and the solar lighting in the back. We are currently doing pre- and post-tracking to develop statistics to give us information about energy savings and crime reduction. This initiative does not involve human interaction. It is really cool to sit at the end of these blocks and watch all of the front porch lights coming on at dusk.”
The community of Milford has also started a Lights-On program and, thus far, over 322 homes have been equipped with energy efficient, security lighting.
Kistler said he would like Laurel to consider its own “Lights-On Laurel Strong” initiative. He said no funding would be required from Laurel to pay for the project. The project will be funded by the Sustainable Energy Utility and Energize Delaware. Kistler said the goal would be to do 400 homes over a three-month period. “We would simply campaign door to door, get information and then install those lights right then and there,” he said.
He went on to say that in addition to installing outside energy efficient lighting, the group now has the ability to install the cost-saving, energy-efficient elements inside the homes.
“Once we are able to build the trust, we would be able to go inside the home and replace inefficient lighting, and costly shower heads with the energy-efficient lighting and water-saving aerators which provides a cost savings in the household,” he said. “We want to be an extension of the police department in efforts to build rapport with the residents.”
Kistler said he would like to have the opportunity to come back to a future meeting of the Mayor and Council to share information with the public about the “pre-launch, launch and post-launch” process of the “Lights-On Laurel Strong” initiative.
“I want to make sure the town is prepared for our project. There are certain policies and procedures involved. We also want to work closely with the police department to develop the target areas for the project,” he said.
Laurel Mayor John Shwed said he “liked what he was hearing” about the proposed “Lights-On Laurel Strong” project.
He requested that Town Manager Jamie Smith work with Kistler to set up a meeting for the project presentation and to formally address the request for Laurel’s participation in the Lights-On initiative.