Downtown San Diego hopes tree twinkle lights will stem crime

Tree lighting program looking to expand downtown

SAN DIEGO - Mayor Kevin Faulconer and local leaders are pushing an unusual way to fight crime downtown, wrapping twinkle lights around trees.

Since April, the city has lit 400 trees on downtown streets.

“I remember rounding the corner and saying, 'What is this, New York?” asked Santiago Campo, owner of the Donut Bar on B Street. “’Where is my little street?' And my immediate thought was, ‘I hope these lights stay.’”

San Diegans who own businesses on these newly-lit streets, like Campo, say the twinkle lights provide more than just ambience.

 “Lights bring in good people and chase away the bad people,” Campo said. “At night I have lots of ladies on our staff decorating our delicate donuts and they have to walk. Knowing the streets are lit up at night makes them, and me, feel just a little more secure.”

The Downtown San Diego Partnership is behind the movement. It cites studies in the U.S. and the U.K. that found crime decreases by 21 percent when lighting improvements are made on streets. The budget for the previous 400 trees came from the Clean and Safe Program. Now, the partnership wants to expand onto C Street, an area it says is in desperate need or revitalization. But that money needs to be raised from the community.

James Langley is one of managing partners who recently acquired the Local Eatery & Drinking Hole on C Street. He said that because of the “rough” location, the deal almost didn’t happen.

“I didn’t like it. In fact I tried talking my partners out of it at first, thinking this was not the best location for us,” said Langley. “However, after spending some time down here and really analyzing it, it became evident this is actually a great part of town. We’re in the middle of the financial district and we’ve got over 5 million square feet of office space close by.”

Langley says he’s hoping the money will come through for twinkle lights on C Street.

“The transient community prefers a quiet, dark area to hand out and sleep. By adding the lights it’s going to make it a little less comfortable to sleep on the streets in this area.”

To help raise the funds to expand tree lighting, many businesses in the community are coming together.

The Local Eatery & Drinking Hole is hosting an event and raffle Wednesday at 4 p.m. Donuts will be provided by the Donut Bar.

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