Vacant Lots Turned Green Reduce Crime, Study Says


A vacant lot turned community garden in Philadelphia's Susquehanna neighborhood.

Greening old, vacant lots comes with plenty of healthy benefits to communities, but it might also help reduce crime, according to a new University of Pennsylvania study.

Researchers started with two types of lots consisting controlled vacant, overgrown lots and ones renovated with help from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, who cleaned, planted trees and grass and build a wooden fence around each lot. Researchers interviewed 21 residents near each lot before and after the experiment. Residents living around greened lots said they felt safer following the renovations.

Researchers also looked at crime statistics three months before the renovations and three months after. Areas with greened lots saw a total reduction in crime, including gun crime and assault without guns. The researchers attribute the reduction to an overall sense of community in areas with greened lots. Additionally, greened lots limit options to hide illegal activities, such as hiding illegal guns or drug use.

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Although a full write-up and statistics behind the University of Pennsylvania study are yet to be released, similar studies confirm that there might be a connection between greenery and crime statistics. A study by the University of Vermont and the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station found that trees and greenery have an impact on crime.

According to that study, a 10 percent increase in tree canopy lead to an approximate 12 percent decrease in overall crime in Baltimore. A 2010 study conducted by U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest and Southern Research Stations found that areas with smaller trees had higher crime than areas with larger trees.

These findings present some interesting figures for urban developers and the communities they build. While developers might keep these findings in mind, ultimately the power lies with the people that reside in those communities, people who may be able to make an impact simply by planting a community garden or a lush, green park.

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