Citizen: More Trees, Less Crime?
Studies show that cleaner and greener neighborhoods lead to lower violence
|the b|e note||Jan 18, 2019|
The linkage between the two is, based on research, a bit more direct than perceived. Philadelphia is among the top five “dirtiest” cities in the United States, based on a list of 40, compiled from Environmental Protection Agency and Census Bureau data. Naturally, suffering under the grimy, anti-marketing moniker of ‘Filthadelphia,’ Philly itself became the first major city, last year, to allow a groundbreaking study on the impact of trash on public safety. Both Columbia University and Penn, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the Philadelphia Division of Housing and Community Development, embarked on studies comparing completely cleaned and greened vacant lots in high crime neighborhoods to lots that received no treatment whatsoever. Researchers examining the study found it “innovating.” Those living through it might view it as fairly common sense.
Ultimately, “overall crime” dipped by 10 percent in the neighborhoods with the transformed lots—where trash was picked up, grass was mowed and spaces were thoroughly cleaned, along with some gardening—unlike the lots that weren’t transformed. Gun violence fell by 30 percent in neighborhoods living below the poverty line that got transformed lots. Other lighter crimes like burglary and loitering—gateway misdemeanors that can eventually lead to violent crime—fell from 20 percent to 30 percent. And the broader “sense of safety” among residents grew to over 60 percent.
These are all not just indicators of dirty ‘hoods. These are actually drivers—psychologically in terms of what they represent to potential perpetrators of crime and scientifically in terms of the proven connections. A 2018 Medical College of Wisconsin study, for example, titled Green Space, Violence, and Crime: A Systematic Review concluded that “ … more evidence supports the positive impact of green space on violence and crime, indicating great potential for green space to shape health-promoting environments.”