Trial with lampposts should make dark Oosterpark safer. ‘Anything can happen here and no one will see it’

A trial with four lampposts should bring light into the darkness of the Oosterpark in Groningen. In the park of the neighborhood of the same name, residents feel unsafe after sunset because of youth hanging around, junkies and the homeless. They hope the light will scare them away.

Quickly take the dog for a walk before it gets dark. By the end of the afternoon, the Oosterpark is teeming with dog owners. A woman walks by with her dog on a leash and a stack of magazines under her arm. “Until two years ago, I still walked here every evening,” she sighs. “The nuisance has become much worse in recent years because of the junkies and rascals.”

Still walking her dog through the park in the dark? She shouldn’t think about it. And she’s not the only one. “I won’t walk through this park in the dark again until there are no more men on earth,” says another woman firmly. When it starts to get dark, this is also the last walk of the day through the Oosterpark for her and her two black poodles.

Several residents of Nachtegaalstraat and Merelstraat along the park have been complaining about social insecurity as soon as the sun goes down. The bushes and shrubs on the edges of the park were now so high that you hardly have a view of what is going on in the park from home or from the street.

Experiment with four lampposts

Local residents raised the alarm with the Oosterparkwijk Residents’ Organization, which in turn got the municipality of Groningen moving. Along the edges of the park, many shrubs have already been pruned or high bushes have made way for low shrubs. And although it is the municipality’s policy not to illuminate parks, this year there will be a trial with four lampposts around the pond in the Oosterpark.

Board member Jaap de Graaf of the Oosterparkwijk Residents’ Organization is happy that the municipality is moving forward, because it did not happen automatically. “We had to make a lot of effort,” he says. “There was quite a lot of doubt about the light, because what if it attracts loitering youth or crime?” He himself is not afraid of that, but practice will tell. “That is why we are so happy with this experiment, against the municipality’s own policy.”

If the effect of light in the darkness proves to be counterproductive, the lampposts will be removed again.

Take the dog for a walk around the pond

De Graaf emphasizes that it is not just that one measure that matters, but that the whole thing counts. Pruning the shrubs and restoring sight lines from the street should have a preventive effect in combination with the light. “If local residents can see exactly what you are up to, you will be less likely to do that here,” he expects. “Anything can happen here now and no one will see it. Soon, Oosterparkers will be able to take a leisurely stroll around the pond with their dog again in the evening.”

Around the pond is also where the four lampposts will be located. The municipality is now looking at where the power cable can best come from. The lampposts are expected to be installed in the spring, in time for the busy summer in the park. Until then, De Graaf also avoids the heart of the park after dark.

Saying ‘Moi’ also works

“I usually walk along the edges of the park,” he admits. “But I have found another way that gives a safe feeling. When I meet someone, I always say ‘moi’ and when they say ‘moi’ back, I know it’s going well. Because then it is a real Oosterparker.”

The woman with her dog nods in agreement. She is a real Oosterparker herself. “Born and raised,” she adds. And she is very happy with the measures. It reminds her of what it was like. In the past, when FC Groningen’s Oosterpark stadium was still in the neighborhood, the path in the park was always illuminated. “Because back then this was where the VIPs’ parking lot was,” she remembers with a laugh.

The stadium was demolished in 2007 and the parking lot is also gone, but the VIPs are still there. They live on Merelstraat and Nachtegaalstraat and will soon be able to walk around their park in the dark with more peace of mind.