Flickr user Orin Zebest, under a Creative Commons license

Highland Park, Michigan, sees 1,400 streetlights repossessed as it struggles to pay utility bills

The lights are going out in Highland Park, Michigan. About 1,400 streetlights in the small city will be removed by the end of the month, leaving its streets in the dark.

Highland Park, a community of about 11,000 that’s almost completely surrounded by the city of Detroit, has been unable to come up with the money to keep its streetlights running. After years of unpaid bills totaling more than $4 million, the local utility, DTE Energy, decided to pluck the bulbs, The Detroit News reports

The move is the result of a settlement between the city and DTE, which will repossess the streetlights but also add 200 new lights to certain corners and intersections. It’s a compromise that will cut the city’s bill from $62,000 a month to about $15,000.

But some locals are worried that the removal of the lights will turn the city’s streets into a target for crime.

"After they took the street light from in front of my business, someone climbed onto my roof and stole an air conditioning unit," said Bobby Hargrove, owner of Hargrove Machinery Sales on Oakland Avenue, who also claims a police officer asked him for money to beef up his protection. "I feel like I'm being punished — I've always paid my bills on time, but they took the street light anyway."

Highland Park Mayor Hubert Yopp insists that crime has not increased since the lights were removed.

"I had the police chief work up the crime stats, and found that most of our burglaries are taking place during the daylight hours," Yopp said.

So there may be crime, but it’s not happening because the lights are out – or at least that’s the official line. But the local school district reports that three schools were broken into right after streetlights were removed. DTE added some new lights in those areas, but others still remain in the dark.

Other cities have already taken similar measures. The city of Rockford, Illinois, recently began the removal of 2,400 streetlights, a move that is expected to save the city $500,000 a year. In early 2010, Colorado Springs turned off between 8,000 and 10,000 streetlights around the city. The city also removed garbage cans from 128 of the city’s parks, though those annual cost savings were only about $60,000 compared to the $1.2 million from the streetlight plan.

As cities face continued fiscal troubles, this isn't the last we're likely to see of this sort of drastic cost-cutting: the dark financial straits cities face mirrored by their darkened streets.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    If You Drive Less Than 10,000 Miles a Year, You Probably Shouldn't Own a Car

    Up to one-quarter of all U.S. drivers might be better off using ride-sharing services instead.

  2. Transportation

    How Seattle Bucked a National Trend and Got More People to Ride the Bus

    Three experts in three very different positions weigh in on their city’s ridership success.

  3. Equity

    The Side Pittsburgh Doesn't Want You to See

    Pittsburgh filmmaker Chris Ivey has spent over twelve years documenting the lives of the people displaced so that the city can achieve its “cool” status.  

  4. Construction workers build affordable housing units.
    Equity

    Why Is 'Affordable' Housing So Expensive to Build?

    As costs keep rising, it’s becoming harder and harder for governments to subsidize projects like they’ve done in the past.

  5. Equity

    Seattle Has 5 Big Pieces of Advice for Amazon’s HQ2 Winner

    Being HQ1 has been no picnic.