FOX 8 Defenders tackle broken street lights

Across New Orleans, complaints are pouring in about a growing number of non-working street lights and what could be related spikes in crime.

One Fontainebleau resident has been lobbying city hall for help since August but so far has gotten nowhere. She turned to the FOX 8 Defenders and the National Council of Jewish Women for help.

Tall trees and elegant homes dot the landscape across the Fontainebleau neighborhood, but you'll need to admire them during the day. Come night time, street lights are now nothing more than decorations.

"In front of my home is black. My side of the street is entirely dark. The side street on my side is also completely black," says Fontainebleau resident Ellen Yellin.

Many of the streetlights throughout Fontainebleau are dark and have been for months.

Yellin first reported the outages to the city almost a year ago in march 2010. Come June, Yellin says the city promised the problem would be fixed by August. Come October, Yellin says the city advised crews would need until this month, January. Now, the target repair date is mid-2011.

In the St. Roch neighborhood, the picture is just as dark.

"I don't feel safe. I talk to people down here who say they don't even want to go to the store," St. Roch resident Clay Thomas says.

Besides St. Roch and Fontainebleau, the FOX 8 Defenders have tracked street lighting problems in Gentilly, New Orleans East, Lakeview, Algiers and the Lower 9th Ward.

The non-working streetlights are more than just an inconvenience. As the darkness creeps in, residents warn so do the criminals.

Yellin says since her neighborhood has gone dark, there have been armed robberies, a rape, and several break-ins.

"It's a frightening situation because safety is a given for me. It's not something you should have to ask for," she says.

Residents with complaints mirroring Yellin's have flooded the FOX 8 Defenders hotline and email address. Now, the Defenders and the NCJW have devised a strategy to shed some light on the problem and hopefully spur city hall into action.

The Defenders are asking everyone who's aware of a street light problem to call or email and report it.

When the Defenders have a complete map of the outages, they'll take it to city hall to ask for an explanation and an estimate of when the lights will be back on.

For people like Yellin who worry about walking from their car to their front door at night, help can't come quickly enough.

When the Defenders asked to interview City Hall's Director of Public Works, the mayor's office instead sent us a statement blaming the former Nagin Administration for the issue.

"As the previous administration did with a number of services, only partial-year funding was provided for street light repair in 2010. We are pleased that street light maintenance, repair, and replacement will begin in mid-January 2011. We have $5 million for streetlight repair and replacement in 2011, funds that will be targeted to address outages of 400 streetlights per week and replace 5,000 streetlights with energy efficient technology."

You can contact the FOX 8 Defenders at 877-670-6397 or by clicking here.