December 9, 2015

The role of trees in crime

Huffington Post -In 2000, Philadelphia became home to one of the first mass greening efforts that specifically focused on poor neighborhoods, with a program led by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. In 2003, the city financed an expansion of the program.

Since the early 2000s, more than $20 million in taxpayer money has been spent on these spaces, said Robert Grossmann, a senior director of the horticultural society. Grossmann said he expected that one-third of Philadelphia’s estimated 40,000 vacant lots would be cleaned and greened by the end of 2016.

A study led by Charles Branas, an epidemiologist at Penn and his colleague John MacDonald, a criminologist, reported that greening vacant lots “was associated with consistent reduction in gun assaults” across the city. They crunched crime data from 1999 to 2008 in areas where lots were newly planted and compared the figures to lots that were left untouched. Figuring in the effects of the city’s greening efforts, the researchers calculated that, citywide, gun assaults dropped 8 percent while reports of disorderly conduct rose 28 percent.

The increase in crime reports, Branas said, grew out of concerns by residents who lived near the freshly planted vegetation. They were more likely to call the police and complain about disorder, he said, adding, “If you clean a space, people will want to protect it.’’

... Michelle Kondo, a scientist with the U.S. Forest Service, is co-author of a recent study in Youngstown, a former steel town of about 60,000 where burglaries and felony assaults decreased around empty land that was rehabilitated. And residents noticed.

No comments: