Cocoa, a Brevard County city in Florida with a population of less than 20,000, has a problem. Once host to the Houston Astros during spring training and to the thousands of visitors who came to witness launches at nearby Cape Canaveral, Cocoa now has the highest crime and arrest rates, the least number of college-educated people and the highest percentage of people living in poverty in the county. But the city has a guardian angel who’s trying to change all that, and shopping center lighting is part of his plan.
What’s the Shopping Center Plan in Cocoa?
Errol Beckford, the Senior Pastor at Celebration Tabernacle Church, is determined to revitalize Cocoa.
At first, his focus was primarily on helping those who might otherwise turn to crime – or have already. He started businesses that employ the homeless and those with criminal records, and he built housing to help the needy get back on their feet.
But since 2011, he’s also been renovating Cocoa buildings to give Cocoa citizens a city they can be proud of. His latest, and largest, project is a shopping center. He started by changing its name from Pineridge Shopping Center to Celebration Shopping Center.
Part of the shopping center plan includes improving the lighting. Not only will the lighting help make the center bright and attractive, it will also cut down on crime – one of the city’s major problems.
The Correlation between Crime and Lighting
The effect of improved lighting on crime rates has been well documented. When California implemented new lighting standards some years ago, Oakland, among other cities, complied. Oakland started using what was then energy-efficient bulbs, capped lampposts to curb energy usage by lighting the target area instead of the sky and so on – but the homicide rate went up 25% from the previous year. Citizens filed for an exemption to the lighting restrictions in the dangerous areas of the city to resolve the problem.
A housing complex in the Bronx saw the crime rate drop 54%, with serious crime down 62%, after improving the lighting and upgrading the surface of buildings in the area.
A review of studies about lighting projects in the US and UK showed that 10 of 13 areas where lighting was improved saw reduced crime rates, more than half of which were quite significant.
Similar studies in this and other countries have shown similar results.
Some researchers note that the effect doesn’t seem to be limited to the inability of potential criminals to hide under cover of darkness. It’s also a matter a pride. A well-lit, upgraded area encourages people to hold their heads high – exactly what Pastor Errol Beckford is trying to accomplish in Cocoa.
“Renovation projects like ours give neighborhoods a morale boost,” Jean Shuford, philanthropist, fundraiser and daughter of a former Cocoa mayor said in a recent interview with Florida Today. “It makes people in the community feel like someone cares about them and their area. It makes them feel good when they see nicer buildings. A lot of people here feel like they’re forgotten because they’re poor…. What matters is the people of the neighborhood seeing that there’s a better way of life on the horizon.”
Upgrading your shopping center lighting isn’t just good for business – it’s good for the whole community.
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Featured image credit: “Cocoa – Historic Cocoa Village” by Jared, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jared422/7782639780/. License by https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.