For Michael Prilla of Baldwin's 822 Brentview Rd., the answer is the latter, emphatically.
Prilla and his mother, Lois, who lives at the same address, used a public meeting at the Leland Park Community Center in south Baldwin on Monday night to fight for keeping a streetlight across from their home. And Michael went much further, asking for all Baldwin streetlights to stay and accusing borough officials of not protecting their constituents.
Prilla took particular umbrage with a comment made by Baldwin Mayor Alexander R. Bennett Jr. at a different streetlights meeting on March 20 where Bennett said, based on research, that "there's really no difference in crime" when it comes to placing a streetlight in one area versus not placing a streetlight in that same place.
Prilla, who said that he has a criminal justice degree, disagreed vehemently and asked Sgt. Kim Reising of the Baldwin Borough Police Department, who has done the bulk of the borough's recent streetlights research, to provide some proof to back that claim.
"That's not what I learned in four years at Edinboro (University)," Prilla said, "not at all. I learned (to) put up as many lights as you can everywhere you can ... so if you can make those studies available to me, I'd like to see them. You're gonna have to prove it to me. You're gonna have to show it to me, because that is contradictory to everything I learned in four years in getting a degree."
Sgt. Reising responded by saying that supporting research is available online and encouraged Prilla to run an Internet search of that topic. Reising admitted that many studies on the subject will contradict what she and Bennett are basing their opinions on. Nevertheless, they are recommending the elimination of the nearly 400 borough streetlights.
Prilla said that the contradictory studies, which would show an increase in crime due to an increase in darkness, would outnumber the ones supporting elimination of lights.
"There has to be more," he said.
But Baldwin police Chief Michael Scott offered supporting evidence found right next door to Baldwin.
"All you have to do is look at Whitehall (Borough), which has no lights," Scott said, "and their crime rate is very low."
Added Reising, "I live in Pleasant Hills (Borough). I have not one streetlight on my whole street."
But Prilla said that crime at south Baldwin's Leland Point Apartments complex makes Baldwin different than those areas.
Kevin Norman, of 195 Travis Dr., expressed a similar concern, noting that three streetlights on Travis (very near Leland Point) are being considered for elimination. (You can see the list of lights being considered for elimination in this article's media gallery and here on the borough website.)
"With all the trouble that happens here (Leland Point)," Norman said, " ... what keeps that trouble from migrating into that neighborhood (Travis area)?"
Scott was quoted in January 2011 as saying that approximately 65 percent of Baldwin's police calls come from the Leland Point area despite only 10 percent of the borough's population residing there. He said on Monday, however, that calls are down in 2012.
But not enough to make Prilla feel that eliminating streetlights is a good idea.
Although Scott said that there are, generally speaking, "no new housing plans going in that incorporate lights" and that streetlights are "a thing of the past," Prilla responded, "That's gotta be a cost-effective thing, not a crime-deterrent thing. That's utterly ridiculous.
"The primary purpose of you guys here, of the government, is the police powers—that is to ensure public safety. That is to stop accidents; that is to stop crime.
"You're shirking your duties right here right now."
Baldwin Council Vice President Michael Stelmasczyk then spoke up in defense of the borough's administration.
"You're accusing council of not watching out for public safety," Stelmasczyk said, "and I will tell you that you are wrong.
"What they (Scott and Reising) are saying is true. In most new communities nowadays, the municipality doesn't pay for lighting. You pay for lighting. You want a light? You put it in your yard."
Prilla then tried to speak, but Stelmasczyk cut him off, saying that he still had the floor. Prilla disagreed, saying that Stelmasczyk interrupted him first.
Stelmasczyk then told Prilla, "If you're not going to cooperate, you can leave."
Stelmasczyk continued: "We did nothing to ignore public safety. If anything, we did more for public safety by putting an officer out there to do this study ... and we turned 37 lights back on that people didn't even report (as being out)."
When Prilla had the opportunity to speak again, he asked Stelmasczyk to apologize for allegedly interrupting him, but Stelmasczyk refused, saying that Prilla was "turning this meeting into something that it isn't."
Prilla responded by saying that he's not arguing for just one light to stay on outside of his home but rather for all of the streetlights in the borough to stay on.
"It is utterly ridiculous to say that crime is not affected by lighting," he said. "It is affected by lighting. That is what everyone who majored in criminal justice is taught. That is what every home burglary service will teach you. This is common sense. You need as many lights as you can.
"The idea that this is gonna help the borough save money I see. The fact that it's gonna increase accidents and increase burglary I also see. Find something else. Find another solution."
Duquesne Light owns Baldwin's streetlights, and they cost about $240,000 per year to operate, Bennett said on March 20. If Duquesne Light were to take down the 376 lights at a cost of $160 each, the borough would not see significant savings until the following years, which Baldwin Borough Manager John Barrett estimates would be around $66,000 annually.
The borough has 1,350 streetlights in total.
Lois Prilla, who spoke before her son, complained that the light outside of her home, specifically, is on a curve and on a hill in which she needs lighting to get safely to and from her bus stop and her home on workdays.
Lois Prilla said that she and others have had to walk through neighbors' yards on Brentview in order to avoid vehicles.
"And there's a light there," she said. "So what are you gonna see in the dark? Not much."
Reising said that she will take another look at that light before making a final recommendation to the Baldwin Council for its possible elimination, especially since lights near changes in road grade are supposed to be kept.
Lights at intersections and near fire hydrants are to be kept, as well.
Reising will also review the lights on Travis that Norman mentioned.
"If somebody comes to us and says, 'Look. Could you look at this again? We really need this light,' why would we turn that off?" Reising said. "No one's saying they're going to turn your light off. This was a list compiled based on a certain criteria that was given of possible lights that could maybe save the borough some money."
"Hopefully," Lois Prilla said, "my light will stay until I can retire."
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