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Worried residents in Gravesend call for Kent County Council to switch street light back on in a campaign backed by the Messenger

A terrified disabled woman hid in her wardrobe for three hours as would-be intruders tried to break into her home.

The woman, who does not wish to be identified, was too scared to use her mobile phone to call the police in fear that the culprits trying to force her patio doors would hear her.

They failed in their bid to burgle the bungalow in The Warren, Gravesend, but it happened within weeks of the secluded cul-de-sac being plunged into darkness by KCC’s Safe and Sensible lighting initiative.

Campaigner Tina Brooker with letters to the council and angry residents
Campaigner Tina Brooker with letters to the council and angry residents

Another householder also reported hearing suspicious noises in her garden that night – and residents are now demanding that the lights, just nine in total, are switched back on.

The scheme came into force in April with around 70,000 street lights being turned off across the county between midnight and 6.30am on a trial basis for a year.
The aim is to reduce energy costs, carbon emissions and light pollution.
But the victim of the break-in attempt believes the fact her road now has no lighting after midnight is to blame.

Street lights on main roads are being left switched on
Street lights on main roads are being left switched on

Neighbour Tina Brooker is spearheading a campaign to have the nine lamps – or some of them – switched back on. The 51-year-old grandmother said: “What happened to those two ladies has made me so angry.

“My disabled neighbour’s husband was working away at the time and she hid in her wardrobe for three hours as she was so terrified. She had her mobile phone with her but didn’t use it because she was scared they would hear her. They didn’t get in but she was left with tool marks all down her patio doors where they tried.”

The woman, believed to be in her 50s, suffers from Meniere’s disease, which affects the inner ear and can cause vertigo, tinnitus and hearing loss.

The Warren in Gravesend has been plunged into darkness
The Warren in Gravesend has been plunged into darkness

Miss Brooker said her neighbour, who also has poor eyesight, had to be hospitalised three times in the week after the attempted burglary just after 2am on May 8.
She said: “She truly believes it was because of what happened. She loves this road and, as far as I’m aware, has had no problems in 13 years of living here. Then, the lights go out and this happens. She was one of the homes in this street with a light right outside, as well as the other victim.

“I am also worried for the other vulnerable and elderly residents. They are petrified now the lights are off. How bad has it got to get? And who thought of calling it Safe and Sensible?”

Miss Brooker, a legal secretary in the City, wrote to KCC after she saw engineers working on the lights in The Warren in April.

Workers told her they would be “going off at midnight” and to “complain like the rest of them”. She has lived in The Warren with son, Daniel, 20, since October 2012, and chose it for its rural-like location and low crime level.

The Warren overlooks an area of grass and woodland, edged by dense hedgerows and Miss Brooker is petitioning KCC to review its decision due to the isolated position and nearby open space.

However, she was told that exclusion criteria did not apply to The Warren and her suggestion for intermittent lighting was also rejected on the grounds of safety for motorists.

Miss Brooker, who said she was not aware of any of KCC’s consultation about the scheme, has vowed to continue her fight and is setting up a Neighbourhood Watch. She said: “I love this little street and I just want safety. People love living here because it’s like living in the country but with urban amenities nearby.

“I am appalled and haven’t slept properly myself since this happened. When you try and look out you can’t see a thing. It’s pitch black.

“I thought we had the best of both worlds but without the lights it’s changed, it’s scary.
“I’m only asking for five lights – KCC would still be making their savings and we would have the safety that we need.”

Police confirmed it was investigating an attempted break-in at The Warren at about 2am on May 8. Anybody with information can contact officers on 101, quoting crime reference XY/16104/14.

In an earlier Messenger story police stated that it is too early in the Safe and Sensible scheme to give any accurate indication as to whether the reduction on lighting levels has impacted on crime.

Police in Essex have asked for lights to be restored in Brentwood after a number of burglaries. Although officers said they were unable to form a direct link between the lights being switched off and the “spike” in burglaries, it said residents felt vulnerable in the dark and had appealed to them to intervene.

Roads excluded from being part of the initiative include those identified by police as having an existing record of crime or the potential for increased crime if street lighting is changed.

Also included are areas with sheltered housing, hospitals and nursing homes, subways and enclosed footpaths, roads with safety measures such as speed humps, those covered by local authority CCTV and sites with road safety concerns.

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