HIGHLAND PARK (WWJ) – Street lights in cash-strapped Highland Park are the target of the repo man.

WWJ’s Ron Dewey reports that not only have they turned out the lights around Highland Park, DTE Energy has also removed the light bulbs in 1,400 light poles. This, as part of a settlement that lets the city avoid paying $4 million in unpaid bills going back several years.

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DTE spokesperson Len Singer said the deal saves Highland Park about $50,000 each month.  Where the lights are still on, DTE has replaced 200 of them with newer, higher efficiency versions.

“At the direction of the city we have removed most of those street lights and before we did we had put in replacement lights, about 200 new lights, primarily at street corners and intersections,” Singer said.

“The new lights that were put in are state-of-the-art lights. They’re much more efficient than the models that were in there before, and they’re also fed by overhead lines as opposed to underground circuits, making them easier to maintain and much more efficient,” he said.

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However, residents complain that most neighborhoods are still in the dark, raising concerns about crime and safety.

Resident Kenneth Miller said the streets are pitch dark, making it very unsafe.

“Here comes a couple of children right now, on their way to school,” Miller told WWJ Tuesday morning. “There’s no lights. They just have to take a chance on walking down the street … so they can get on the bus or walk to school.”

Miller said those residents who want to keep their porch lights on will be pay more for their electricity, because the city cannot.

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Highland Park Mayor Hubert Yopp insists that crime has not increased since the lights were removed.