On Tuesday, Oct. 5, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission deferred approval of plans to install more streetlamps on O, N and Prospect Streets just past the Healy Gates, an area that has been the scene of numerous robberies in recent weeks. Tabling the issue until their next meeting, the Commission delayed a move that could deter crime and help students and other residents feel safer at night on the streets near their homes.

Presentations to the ANC by David Morrell, vice president for university safety, and Meredith Mellody (COL ’05), a member of the Student Safety Advisory Board, stressed the importance of this measure. The presenters pointed to a recent survey by the advisory board that singled out the proposed lamppost sites as particularly well-traveled but poorly-lit areas that were troubling to many students who walked there after dark.

Speaking out against the lighting plan, the president of the Citizen Association of Georgetown expressed concern that the new lights would be a nuisance to neighbors, contributing to the already high levels of light in the relatively small vicinity.

This fear of unbearable light, one of the central reasons for delaying the plan, is unfounded. First, three out of the four lampposts in question are to be placed in an area filled almost exclusively by university property, most of which is student housing. How would the apparently odious additional light from lampposts at 3608 N St. (next to the Georgetown Public Policy Institute and MSB Technology Center and across from Alumni Square), 3609 O St. (in front of the Reed Alumni Residence) and 3515 N St. (across from the Nevils apartments and LXR residence hall) even reach the homes of many town residents, let alone flood their parlors to an insufferable degree?

Furthermore, the lampposts’ slim potential for disturbance is far outweighed by their deterrent benefits. The recent robberies and assaults that occurred in the poorly lit vicinity of Alumni Square, LXR, Nevils and the university-owned townhouses have left students uneasy, and the SSAB survey proves that these areas are particularly worrying to those who live only blocks away or a few doors down.

The university, responding to student concerns, is asking for a small number of light fixtures in a small, student-filled area, and they are asking for these lights solely on the basis of deterring crime.

The strained town-gown relations can hardly be said to be improving when the town representatives seem willing to risk student safety in favor of leaving their curtains open at night. The non-student residents blocking this plan may simply be out of touch with this pressing safety issue. Most residents have the option to drive to and from their evening destination. Most Georgetown students do not have that option.

Installing these lights may seem like a mere cosmetic change to some, but to those who walk through this darkened area each night, the lampposts would go far to quell their anxiety. It is the residents’ neighborhood, too – they should be concerned about crime, garage or no.

At its Oct. 26 meeting, the ANC needs to put aside these frivolous objections and approve the university’s sensible lighting plan. If these lampposts go up, their presence will go a long way toward the mutually beneficial goal of creating a safer environment for every Georgetown resident, young or old.

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