From: Allison Winter, ENN
Published March 26, 2013 09:01 AM

Urban Greening May Reduce Crime Rates in Cities

Urban planning is not only important to the strategic design behind a city's infrastructure, but now one study finds that the landscaping itself which emphasizes urban greening and the introduction of well-maintained vegetation, can lower the rates of certain types of crime such as aggravated assault, robbery and burglary, in cities.

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According to a Temple University study, "Does vegetation encourage or suppress urban crime? Evidence from Philadelphia, PA," researchers found that the presence of grass, trees and shrubs is associated with lower crime rates in Philadelphia.

"There is a longstanding principle, particularly in urban planning, that you don't want a high level of vegetation, because it abets crime by either shielding the criminal activity or allowing the criminal to escape," said Jeremy Mennis, associate professor of geography and urban studies at Temple. "Well-maintained greenery, however, can have a suppressive effect on crime."

Researchers established controls for other key socioeconomic factors related to crime, such as poverty, educational attainment and population density, and examined socioeconomic, crime and vegetation data, the latter from satellite imagery.

The authors conclude that this deterrent effect is rooted in the fact that maintained greenery encourages social interaction and community supervision of public spaces, as well the calming effect that vegetated landscapes may impart, thus reducing psychological precursors to violent acts. They offer their findings and related work as evidence for urban planners to use when designing crime prevention strategies, especially important in an age when sustainability is valued.

Mennis said rather than decreasing vegetation as a crime deterrent, their study provides evidence that cities should be exploring increasing maintained green spaces.

Increasing vegetation not only supports sustainability, but improves the aesthetics in a community creating a certain pride and respect for the neighborhood which is a nice complement to many city initiatives, explains Mennis.

By adding vegetation, stormwater runoff is also reduced which is a major source of pollution for city sewer systems and surface waters. "Reducing stormwater runoff, improving quality of life, reducing crime — all of these objectives are furthered by increasing well-managed vegetation within the city."

"If you see well-maintained window boxes, gardens, lawns and community spaces it gives the impression of a stable, healthy community - people are watching out for that neighborhood," said Eva Monheim, instructor in Landscape Architecture and Horticulture at Temple University. "Broken window panes, unmaintained vegetation - weeds and tall grass - give the opposite impression: a neighborhood in decline."

The study was published in the journal, Landscape and Urban Planning.

Read more at Temple University.

City model image via Shutterstock.

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