Residents shed light on new street lamps' safety issue

Disagreement? Difference of opinion? Or maybe even a divergence of views? You can use any synonym you want, and call it whatever you wish. But whatever you call it, it adds up to controversy, and there's plenty of it brewing these days in Sun City Summerlin.

And it's all the result of those new streetlights, which Las Vegas officials say will save on energy and reduce the city's electric bill by more than $2 million a year.

Back on June 12, this column was devoted to a discussion about the 41,000 new street lamps being installed throughout Las Vegas. And my oh my, but did that column ever light up a storm while discovering a super-sensitive subject. The emails, many with diametrically opposite viewpoints about the new lights, kept coming for days and even a week afterward.

The crux of the issue is this: The old street lamps, which city officials say lasted an average of 18 months, had an illumination reach that covered driveways and even backyards of many homes. The new lights, which officials say will reduce energy consumption by 30 to 60 percent and last an average of 12 to 14 years, illuminate only the streets and sidewalks.

Technically referred to as light-emitting diode (LED) by Las Vegas Public Works Director Jorge Cervantes, the new lamps are being installed citywide on a gradual basis over a full year. Some sectors of Summerlin, including all of Sun City, were among the first areas to experience the changeover.

One Sun City respondent expressed a viewpoint that is common among those objecting to the new lights by stating that they create "a perfect hiding area for burglars."

Another resident of the senior community stated, "Your article was interesting and to the point. Residents do not understand that these are streetlights and not yard lights." He was supported by a female resident who wrote, "I, too, live in Sun City Summerlin, and I love the new lighting. I believe it's much better."

Perhaps two emails in particular are best indicative of the opposing viewpoints.

One is from Jan Edwards, a member of the Sun City Security Patrol. And while she questions the cost of installing the new lights, Edwards is highly critical of what she calls "manufacturer propaganda."

"All they want to talk about is how much they will save and how long the bulbs will last. ... Only time will tell how much of it is exaggeration," her email said.

Edwards added, "I would like for the people who made the crazy decision (to install the new lights) to come to Sun City and drive slowly for four hours under these lights. I can promise you they'll have a headache at the end of that time. My husband and I drive midnight until 4 a.m. for Security Patrol. These lights are blinding bright when you're underneath them.

"When we encounter someone who obviously does not belong in our community, we attempt to follow them until they leave Sun City. Now, while doing that, we totally lose sight of them between each streetlight. ... There is no way we can see into people's yards. Some homes are in total darkness," Edwards wrote.

The countering email came from Kathy Perkins, crime prevention specialist at the Northwest Area Command of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

Referring to comments in my June 12 column from Niel Rohleder, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Public Works Department, Perkins said, "Rohleder was correct in saying that the primary purpose of streetlights is to provide adequate light for sidewalks and streets. Nowhere are streetlights considered someone's own personal security lights for their property."

Although many homeowners have contended that the old streetlights helped illuminate their yards, thereby heightening their feelings of security, Perkins wrote, "Often an added benefit of some streetlight placement is the coverage to nearby residential properties, but that is not the intent. Homeowners are responsible for installing and maintaining adequate light coverage for their property."

As for the replaced lighting, Perkins said, "The city is right to take advantage of improved lighting technology that decreases cost, improves light quality and color rendition, and reduces maintenance needs. Isn't that what we want from our city entities?"

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His newest novel, "All For Nothing," is now available. Contact him at