ANGRY residents have hit out at council bosses, claiming their cash-saving switch off of street lights is causing a new wave of crime.
In some Highland towns and villages every second street light is being switched off as part of a new pilot scheme launched last year to save£2 million.
Some areas had every light dimmed but others were plunged into darkness with every lamp being switched off between midnight and 6am.
There are now calls for Highland council to scrap the scheme altogether as residents are concerned for their safety.
The council received a petition of 130 signatures from residents of Dunvegan in Skye requesting that the project be axed.
Despite the amount that needs to be saved the scheme that is spread across 40 different communities has only saved £5,000 in the last 12 months.
Switching off alternate lampposts saved £37 per light per year.
Overnight switch-offs saved £14 per year and dimming the lights or changing the LED posts saved £25 per lamppost.
Residents are blaming the lack of lights for break-ins and vandalism.
The community council of Kinlochleven, near Fort William, have also voiced their concerns and called for their lights to be turned back on.
This small community is unique as they were used as the guinea pig for all three of the switch off methods.
Community Council secretary Catriona Spence said: “The elderly population has found it frightening when going to their doors in darkness.”
A meeting with councillors is scheduled for this Thursday and residents will call for the project to be dropped in areas that have strong opposition.
Chief Superintendent Julian Innes, Head of Territorial Policing for Northern Constabulary claims no link has been made between crime and the lack of lighting.
He said: “There do not appear to have been any particular crime trends in correlation with the street lights ‘switch-off’.
“To date crime is down this year with 1,325 less crimes being committed. To date, class 4 crimes like fire-raising and vandalism are down by 493 and class 3 crimes like theft and housebreaking are down by 566.
“Northern Constabulary continues to have regular meetings with the Highland Council and will continue to monitor the crime situation.”
Sam MacNaughton, Highland Council’s head of transport and infrastructure, said the savings made by altering the timing of the lamps would soon change as the energy companies change their tariffs.
He said: “Where demand is high, tariff costs will be high and where the demand is low, tariff costs will be low.
“It is unlikely that this tariff structure will work against investing in overnight switch-offs in the long-term.”
Mr MacNaughton also said that the LED street lights would offer good savings without affecting the level of brightness on the street.