A petition has been launched calling for the district's street lights to be kept on all night.

In January 2014 many of the street lamps in Epping Forest started switching off between 12am and 5am, in a bid to save £1.5m a year across Essex.

In the years since many have questioned the decision, suggesting darker streets have encouraged burglars and led people to feel unsafe.

At a public meeting at Loughton Club last Thursday (September 6), concerned residents told police representatives the lights should be kept on.

Matt Hopkinson, a Loughton dad, said: "Many feel unsafe once the lights go out and are scared to be on the streets.

"Once the lights go out it is very hard to see where you are walking and if anyone is even walking down the same road.

"The number of reported car thefts in our area is very high, and a high percentage of these happens after 1am.

"The main reason for this is street lighting.

"The criminals know no street lights means it is very hard for them to be identified on CCTV."

Among those who also questioned the policy was Dame Eleanor Laing MP, who said she feels vulnerable coming home late at night and worried for her son when he was at home alone.

She urged people to lobby Essex County Councillors asking that the lights be switched back on.

As part of that effort, Mr Hopkinson has launched a petition through the county council's website.

Essex Police has previously argued there is no link between the lights switching off and crime rates rising.

A study comparing an 87 day period between March and June from 12am to 5am, pre and post switch-off, found a 5.8 per cent crime increase in Epping Forest.

However, the rate of offences also shot up 31 per cent across the rest of the day in the district, leading police to believe higher levels of darkness were not related to higher levels of crime.

To sign the petition, click here.