The majority of street lights have been removed from one Michigan city that was having trouble paying its electricity bill.
DTE Energy Company has already repossessed 1,400 street lights in Highland Park as a part of a deal to forgive $4 million in unpaid bills going back at least five years. The company expects the rest of the work to be completed by Oct. 31.
The city council calls the plan the “Highland Park Lighting Improvement Project” because it will also replace 200 lights on street corners with more efficient models.
“We’re trying to keep (costs) down so the taxpayers don’t have to pay extra money,” Mayor Hubert Yopp said Tuesday.
The city hopes that the reduction of service will curb their overall electric bill from more than $60,000 per month to about $15,000 per month.
For obvious reasons, Highland Park residents have been worried about increased crime as the lights come down.
“After they took the street light from in front of my business, someone climbed onto my roof and stole an air conditioning unit,” businessman Bobby Hargrove told The Detroit News. “I feel like I’m being punished — I’ve always paid my bills on time, but they took the street light anyway.”
Hargrove claimed that the Highland Park police officer he spoke to after the robbery tried to use the opportunity to make a few extra bucks.
“He contacted me about a week after my air conditioner was stolen and told me he’d make sure my place didn’t get broken into — if I paid him $650 every two weeks,” he complained. “That’s like paying protection to the Mafia.”
Although Yopp has denied the crime rate is up, city school board secretary Robert Davis also said that at least three schools were broken into right after the lights were removed.
“Thankfully, DTE agreed to put new lights in front of the schools, although they’re not all up yet,” Davis explained.
Watch this video of a street light being removed, uploaded to YouTube by “pauldarwinlee.”