POLICE chiefs and residents have given a cautious welcome to statistics that show crime has fallen in Castle Point since street lights were switched off.

Figures reveal that in the week after the borough’s streetlights were turned off between midnight and 5am, there were actually 50 fewer crimes reported to Essex Police than the previous week.

Residents had raised a number of concerns following Essex County Council’s decision to switch-off the majority of the lights in the early hours, with many worried that it would encourage criminals to target their pitch-black streets.

But Essex Police figures show there were actually fewer crimes.

474 crimes were reported between Monday, January 13 and Sunday, January 19 and 526 the previous week, between Monday, January 6 and Sunday, January 12.

The figures indicated that most crimes were reported between midnight and 1am, although this was closely followed by the following hour, between 1am and 2am.

However, locals say it is too early to tell whether the crime will fall overall and want the scheme to be constantly reviewed.

John Anderson, Independent councillor for Canvey Island Central, said he wants to see the figures again in five months.

“I would say it’s far too early to be jumping up and down with joy. If we were to come back in June and compare I would be very interested to see how many crimes had been reported.

“It is not only crime that is a concern, it is so dark and the pavements are in such poor shape it is only a matter of time before people start injuring themselves. The whole project needs to be re-examined.”

It is believed the project will save Essex County Council more than £1million a year – £64,000 in Castle Point.

Key road junctions are not affected by the plan and neither are areas where lighting is needed for safety reasons.

Lights at bus shelters, on road signs and traffic bollards will also remain on.

Chris Wood, Castle Point District Inspector, said the scheme was in its infancy.

“In many respects it is far too early to judge the figures. I know that previously the Police and Crime Commissioner has said there is no direct correlation between the lights being turned off and a rise in the amount of crime.

“Crime in all areas does rise and fall without a discernible reason at times and it is very hard to put it down to one thing in particular.

“I think it is important not to become too concerned about it as the area is still being policed in the same way as before.

“We will continue to monitor crime after dark to ensure the residents of Castle Point are kept safe.”

The scheme will be rolled out in Basildon on Friday, January 31.