Study Finds Greening Vacant Lots Reduces Overall Crime

slideshow bob/CC BY-SA 2.0

Green vacant lots make neighborhood residents feel safer while reducing overall crime, according to a new study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The study, published in the journal Injury Prevention, found its results by using randomized trial design to examine the impact of vacant lot greening. Two clusters of lots were selected for testing. One cluster was greened with help from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society by removing debris, planting, building fences, and performing regular lawn maintenance. The other cluster was left vacant, according to Science Daily.

Vacant Versus Greened Lots

Twenty-one of the residents living near either the vacant or the greened lots were interviewed before and after the fact.

"Vacant lot greening changes the physical environment of a neighborhood from one that may promote crime and fear to one that may reduce crime and make people feel safer," said lead author Eugenia C. Garvin, MD, a resident in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine on Science Daily. "Our theory is that transforming vacant lots from a space overgrown with vegetation and filled with trash to a clean and green space may make it difficult for people to hide illegal guns and conduct other illegal activities such as drug use in or near the space. Additionally, green space may encourage community cohesion."

Crime Rates Reduced

After greening, residents felt safer and more comfortable in their environment. And it turns out they were safer. Researchers also looked at police reports before and after the planting. Total crimes and specifically gun crimes were reduced as well.

Again, Science Daily:

[T]he research team analyzed police reported crime data from three months before and three months after the greening. Total crime, as well as assaults with and without a gun, was less after the greening.

All the more reason to turn the nation's vacant lots into urban gardens.

Like this? Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Tags: Gardening | Urban Life | Urban Planning

Best of TreeHugger