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    Photo credit: Conrad Benner,

    Fighting crime with light


    We know what the power of lighting can do to an urban community. Colorful displays of light on facades and bridges become beacons of city pride, street lighting creates a comfortable and safer environment, and with connected lighting, data assists city officials to efficiently maintain and monitor the city’s streets. In many ways, you could say urban lighting is somewhat of a superhero -- keeping a city safe, uniting citizens, forming a sense of community, and now in South Philadelphia, fighting crime.

    Philadelphia’s Percy Street is no stranger to illegal activity. From drug deals, to public urination, residents have witnessed it all. It was clear that something needed to be done to improve the safety of the street and make citizens feel comfortable. The answer? Colorful, dynamic lighting.
    Electric street lighting on percy street

    Photo credit: Conrad Benner,


    Together with muralist David Guinn, lighting designer Drew Biliau created Electric Street – a color-changing geometric LED light display that decorated Percy Street. Foot traffic increased, and Instagram savvy residents snapped pictures to post online – something that would deter any criminal. Cleverly coined by urbanist Jane Jacobs as the “eyes on the street,” Electric Street is now a place of observance and gathering, rather than a place to avoid.


    “We can increase safety and visibility at the same time as creating an interesting artistic experience,” said Guinn. “Crime deterrence isn’t the only motivation though. It’s a project borne in a community need, and by attending to that need in a creative way, I hope we open the door for more creative interactions.”

    Electric street lighting on percy street

    Photo credit: Conrad Benner,


    Both Guinn and Biliau hope that Electric Street inspires other cities to use creative art displays to make a difference in their communities, and to utilize lighting as a superhero – invisible by day, but entertaining and fighting crime by night.


    Thanks to Conrad Benner for use of the photos. For more details on this project and additional photos, check out his blog here.