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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — It has long been known that lighting at night or the lack of it makes a difference to urban neighborhoods. And, the oldest neighborhoods are too often the darkest especially as the evening passes midnight.

In an effort to equip neighbors to help provide more lighting to their own neighborhoods, the Neighborhood Alliance of Central Oklahoma organized volunteers to hand out donated LED light bulbs in the Lyons Park neighborhood Saturday.

The effort was part of the Alliance’s new program “Light up your Neighborhood.” With the new efficient LED bulbs, neighbors are being urged to leave their porch lights on all night to keep their neighborhoods better lit and have less crime.

It was the organization’s first effort to address crime trends by providing free and cheap to operate LED light bulbs. At the same point of contact, the free bulb also was in a bag with information encouraging neighbors to use the bulbs for their safety and for the safety of everyone in the neighborhood.

Lyons Park Neigbhborhood
Lyons Park neighborhood, Oklahoma City

University of Central Oklahoma student volunteers came to the first hand-out and moved through the Lyons Park neighborhood in two teams of three.

That neighborhood is bounded by N.W. 34th on the north, N.W. 27th on the south, I-44 on the west, and May Avenue on the east.

“Safe neighborhoods don’t just happen by accident,” wrote Sarah Lawhead, community organizer for the Neighborhood Alliance. 

“Safe neighborhoods happen when neighbors actively participate in making their surroundings less inviting to criminals, like having well-lit porches and blocks. Lyons Park is a neighborhood in OKC experiencing an increase in burglaries and the neighborhood has been described by residents as ‘really dark at night.'”

And, although this is the first effort to light up dark neighborhoods, the Neighborhood Alliance has other long-term efforts to empower neighborhoods.

To learn more about a project this summer: Project helps Metro Park neighborhood connect, improve quality of life

“Really Dark”

Eric and Paula were out in their front yard Saturday reorganizing their Halloween decorations blown in several directions by the extreme winds this week. They talked to Free Press about what it’s like on their long block where there is a city streetlight at either end.

“We leave our porch light and driveway light on overnight but we are one of only a few houses that do that,” Eric told us. “Most of my neighbors turn their porch lights off when they go to bed, which makes the neighborhood dark in the later hours of the night.”

His wife Paula told us that she has a job where she has to get up early and leave the house around 4:30 a.m. The neighborhood at that time of the night is dark. Does she feel more secure where with the lighting at their house?

“I do because I leave when it’s dark out,” she said. “And, you never know because there’s some sketchy people over there – homeless people – they camp out down here in the park.”

Will Rogers Park, the overpasses of I-44, and the area around the overflow basin that doubles as soccer fields are where some experiencing homelessness camp out from time to time an do walk through the neighborhood because it is the most direct route to May Avenue.

Uptick in crime

MSgt. Bob Skalla with the Oklahoma City Police Department is working with the Neighborhood Alliance to provide data and research support. He is the police community relations officer for the Hefner Division.

Skalla said that he is basic and advanced Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design certified and uses his knowledge to resource neighborhood associations.

He was at the event to brief the students before they went out on how to stay safe as they knocked doors and to stay close by to provide security for them as well.

We talked to him about what he found when the department started receiving comments and complaints about the neighborhood.

“I came out here I drove around at nighttime and I noticed that no one was turning their porch lights on,” Skalla told us. “City lights were burned out.”

He said that when he ran a crime report on the neighborhood “it lit up like a Christmas tree.” He saw reports about burglaries, petty crime, thefts and other property crimes.

That’s when he got in touch with Lawhead from the Neighborhood Alliance who then started organizing to give away the LED bulbs. The bulbs, bags, and materials that help homeowners understand the efficiency of LED bulbs have been donated by OG&E.

Lawhead told us that she is in hopes the program will spread to other neighborhoods as well.

“Neighborhoods can reach out to the Neighborhood Alliance and do the same thing,” said Lawhead. “We will teach them how to go implement this program in their own neighborhood.”

Student voluteers

Volunteers from the UCO organized into two teams of three each. We talked to a few of the students as they were bagging up the bulbs and information sheets.

We asked Abby Thompson, a senior, what she found interesting about the project that she would get up Saturday morning and come to OKC to volunteer.

“So. I’m a team leader for big event, an organization at UCO where we go out into the community and volunteer. So, right now, this is our Little Event that we do in the fall. In the spring, we’ll do another one we call Big Event,” she said.

Abby Black was helping with Saturday’s work, too. Why?

“I’m here because I want to get out of my community and give back,” Black said. “And then also, some girls in my sorority are in charge of Little Event. So I’m also supporting them as well in their leadership.”

Light up Lyons Park
Sarah Lawhead with the Neighborhood Alliance hands out information and briefs Cesar Cano, Abby Thompson, and Abby Black before they go out into the neighborhood. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Cesar Cano, also a student at UCO, came to help.

He’s in the Omega Delta Phi fraternity and heard about the opportunity to volunteer through their fraternity’s service chair. “It piqued my interest,” he told us.

“I talked to one of my friends,” Cano said. “He’s a member of the organization as well. And he’s actually been to one of these. It’s cool, everybody gets like a collaborative effort and everybody just comes out here and helps the community out in action.”

Three more students came later a we were with the first group of three that started through the neighborhood.

Light up Lyons Park
Cesar Cano prepares to hand an LED light bulb and information to a resident in Lyons Park Saturday, Oct. 30. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)


Information about Neighborhood Alliance: Since 1976 Neighborhood Alliance has helped neighborhoods organize, communicate peacefully with each other, and work with City and County officials to create safer, more attractive, and healthier neighborhoods for everyone.  Safe and healthy neighborhoods are places that provide opportunities, resources, and an environment that children, youth, and adults need to maximize their life outcomes.  There are more than 600 active voluntary neighborhood and homeowners associations that utilize the programs and services of Neighborhood Alliance through Central Oklahoma.

Last Updated November 2, 2021, 1:01 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor