Calgarians protest planting trees, saying they will be cover for crime

handout
via Ian Burgess/ Tree protest handout via Canadian Press

This site being named TreeHugger, there was no way we were not going to be all over this story out of Calgary, where Brentwood residents are apparently outraged because the city is planting, you guessed it, trees. In a park. According to Rob Drinkwater in the Canadian Press,

Ian Burgess said some of his neighbours in the Brentwood neighbourhood near the University of Calgary yelled at contractors last week that were hired by the city to plant about a dozen small trees. Burgess and others argue the trees will encourage crime by making it harder to see neighbouring homes and that they will provide cover for urban campers, thieves or drug users. “We’ve found everything from a makeshift crackpipe to razors to needles to hygiene products,” Burgess said about the park, which already has some mature trees and bushes. They’re using our park as a toilet,” noted Tracy Schaeffler, a neighbour who is also concerned about the trees.


His mom is on the case too, telling the CBC:

If you give people more places to hide, more naughty things will be done," she said. Burgess worries about more "urban campers" and car prowlings, and said she's frustrated she wasn't consulted by the city. "We've had our urban campers here and people using the trees and the bushes as their own personal toilets, and why do we want to give them more places to do that?"

The real TreeHugger question is, do trees increase or reduce crime?


The Twitterverse has had some fun with this, but the fact is, there is significant evidence that trees actually reduce crime. As we have noted in TreeHugger, A Baltimore study speculated:

We believe that large street trees can reduce crime by signaling to a potential criminal that a neighborhood is better cared for and, therefore, a criminal is more likely to be caught.

We have also noted before that trees are an indicator of income and stability, in How to Spot Income Inequality from Space: Look for the Trees

Another study showed that Big trees make communities safer. The leader of a study in Portland concluded:

We wanted to find out whether trees, which provide a range of other benefits, could improve quality of life in Portland by reducing crime, and it was exciting to see that they did. Although a burglar alarm may deter criminals, it won't provide shade on a hot summer day, and it certainly isn't as nice to look at as a tree.

So in this case it is clear that residents of Calgary are barking up the wrong tree. They deter crime, rather than attract it.

Tags: Alberta | Cities | Trees | Urban Life

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