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Chattanooga, Tenn., Expanding 'Streetlight of the Future' Installation

Following a rash of crime in one of the city's parks, officials implement a network of wirelessly controlled streetlamps that police can use to catch criminals.

Gang violence in a Chattanooga, Tenn., park has led the city to install new high-tech streetlights that may become the platform for a whole suite of police technology.

Violence in Coolidge Park, pictured above, had gotten so bad that police tried to ban unaccompanied minors from entering, The Atlantic Cities reported -- and the city was considering installing really bright lights to thwart crime.

“They were getting ready to flood this park with these giant baseball field lights," said Don Lepard, CEO of Global Green Lighting, "and they were going to kill the ambiance of the whole park,” 

Instead, the city agreed to contract with Lepard to install a system of wirelessly networked, adjustable lights, on one condition -- that police could control the lights from their cars. “I agreed to it not knowing if we could pull it off of or not,” Lepard said.

The company installed 350 of the streetlights in and around the park and crime dropped. “We went from having people vacate the park at dark to having frisbee leagues at 11 at night,” Lepard said.

When the lights were installed back in 2011, Sgt. Jeffrey Rearden said even those who aren't particularly computer-savvy can easily "go online, pull up a bank of these lights, and either turn them down, turn them off, or even bring them up to 100 percent lighting, which makes it almost like daylight so you can identify people in a crowd," he said in a video for Global Green Lighting (below). "They don't want to be where they light is, they tend to go to the dark spots, so if we can eliminate the dark spots, it eliminates our crowds and eliminates our problem."

And to save money, the lights can dim themselves at dusk or dawn, and during an emergency, the lights can be made to flash warning signals.

Rearden also said he hoped the city would install these particular streetlights throughout Chattanooga -- which is well on its way to happening. Lepard’s company now has a $20 million order from the city to install an additional 27,000 adjustable lights throughout the city. 

The ability to wirelessly control a device on top of a pole now opens up the possibility for capabilities beyond providing light. Air-quality sensors, video cameras or Wi-Fi hotspots could potentially be integrated into the poles.

“From a law enforcement standpoint, if we put an air-quality sensor in that light that detects meth, if somebody fires up a meth lab, that light will pick it up, send a signal back to 9-1-1, dispatch police to that spot and set the light to flash,” Lepard said.

Photo courtesy of Melinda Fawver/Shutterstock