The Surprising Science of Fighting Crime With…Trees

A growing body of research suggests greenery may make cities safer.

From Mother Jones:

In 2001 environmental researchers…published a landmark study on crime rates in a Chicago project comparing aerial photos and police crime reports, the researchers

  • buildings still surrounded by lots of foliage saw 48% fewer property crimes, on average,
  • 56% fewer violent crimes than buildings with low levels of vegetation…

in the nearly two decades since, a small but growing body of research has supported the idea that trees may have a calming effect on crime.

The US Forest Service:

  • urban trees help save energy,
  • lead to better air and water quality,
  • reduce stormwater runoff,
  • store carbon,
  • increase property values.

In California urban trees—173 million—provide an estimated $8.3 billion in environmental services every year, according to a 2017 study 

In Denmark: “major 2019 study of nearly 1 million Danish people showed that kids who grew up near green spaces had a lower risk of psychiatric disorders later in life.”

“..some cities are beginning to explore urban greening as a way to increase residents’ safety, especially in low-income, blighted areas. “

In Philadelphia, researchers 2018 randomized trial included more than 500 vacant lots.

  • 1/3 were “cleaned and greened” with trees and grass.
  • 1/3 were only cleaned, with no greenery added,
  • 1/3 were left alone.

The lots that received either treatment there were significant reductions in overall crime and burglaries over a 38-month period,

“a 29% drop in gun violence in neighborhoods below the poverty line. could translate to more than 350 fewer shootings each year. The city only spent about $5 per square meter to green each lot and got a 29% reduction in gun violence…return on investment.”

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