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Urban Green Space Reduces Crime: Study

By Andrew Lu on March 29, 2013 10:35 AM

Urban green spaces can actually lower the rates for certain types of crime, a study found.

While popular belief is that urban vegetation may encourage crime by providing places of cover and potential escape routes for criminals, the Temple University study found the opposite to be true. Well-maintained green spaces were found to lower rates of serious crime such as aggravated assault, robbery, and burglary, reports Red Orbit.

The study examined crime and vegetation data with satellite imagery, and found that the presence of grass, trees and shrubs was closely related to lower crime rates in parts of Philadelphia.

Why Urban Green Spaces May Deter Crime

The authors of the study suggest that urban green spaces may deter crime for several reasons, reports Red Orbit. These reasons include:

  • Social interaction. Well-maintained green spaces may provide a place for people to interact and hang out. As a result, this may lead to more people and families just milling around. The presence of more people may make it harder for criminals to commit crimes without being spotted and apprehended.

  • Psychological reasons. Vegetation may also have a calming effect on would-be criminals, according to the study. Researchers suggest that the soothing effect of green space may reduce psychological precursors to violent acts.

  • Community vigilence. As communities adopt urban green spaces as their own, residents may informally keep watch over these areas, the study's authors said. For example, some neighbors will simply maintain the green space and pick up trash, while others may form loosely organized neighborhood-watch groups.

What Communities Can Do

The authors of the study offered their findings to urban planners as a resource to design crime-prevention strategies. So instead of eliminating and decreasing urban vegetation as a way to fight crime, the authors suggest that cities encourage the growth of more green spaces.

Along with fighting crime, such steps are also good for the environment by reducing stormwater runoff and improving the aesthetics of the area, the study says.

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