Proven: Green Spaces Equal Lower Crime

by Shilpi Paul

image
More beauty at Florida and North Capitol. Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

Social scientists and armchair anthropologists have long been touting theories that draw a certain causal relationship: beautify public spaces and watch crime rates plummet. Green spaces calm the fires of drug addicts and gang members (or just send them elsewhere), the theories go, and residents feel safer walking around cleaner streets and parks.

A study published last week in the American Journal of Epidemiology is the latest report to validate this theory. It collected data for a decade and used solid scientific methods to prove that “greening was linked to significant reductions in gun assaults across most of Philadelphia and significant reductions in vandalism in one section of the city.”

The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine report followed a 1999 Philadelphia city-wide initiative to “green” 4,500 vacant lots. The researchers tracked various changes around both the greened and untouched lots, analyzing the rates for a slew of crimes, including aggravated assaults, robberies with guns, narcotics sales, vandalism and criminal mischief. They also analyzed the results of a household health survey. They carefully controlled the study, randomly selecting untreated control lots to compare with treated lots.

The results were unequivocal: gun assaults plummeted around the greener pastures, and residents also reported less stress and more exercise.

From Science Daily, who reported on the study recently:

“This is one of the first rigorous studies to show that reducing physical decay in neighborhoods — through such efforts as cleaning up vacant lots — reduces public safety crimes, demonstrating that healthier places are safer places,” says co-author John MacDonald, PhD, chair of the Department of Criminology at Penn. “Public policies that promote active living can also enhance personal safety.”

A little anecdotal evidence supports the finding here in DC, too. While doing research for our freshly scrubbed Bloomingdale neighborhood profile (look for it next week), UrbanTurf spoke with longtime resident David Lippe, who spent time in the weeds (literally) beautifying Bloomingdale. Lippe moved to Seaton Place NW 17 years ago, and remembers kicking away drug needles and other pointy, dangerous debris in his early years as a resident. Lippe and some neighbors also adopted the triangle at North Capitol and Florida Avenue (map) with the goal of transforming it.

“This has always been a problematic park,” Lippe told UrbanTurf. “We wanted to try to show that people cared about it, hoping that if they saw that we were caring for it, then they may also.”

Lippe and his cohorts went about planting ten Heritage River Birch trees, laying down ground cover, and surrounding the plants with wrought iron. The group kept the area clean and manually watered the trees until they were robust. The result? The corner is (pretty much) free from debris and Lippe believes that the beautification has had the effect of making the neighborhood safer.

See other articles related to: trees, crime

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/researchers_draw_a_solid_connection_between_green_spaces_and_lowered_crime/4634

3 Comments

  1. xmal said at 4:27 pm on Tuesday November 22, 2011:

    That’s a bold headline! Also, do the scientists speculate on the mechanism behind this effect—-do the greener spaces attract nonviolent people who like to exercise or do they have an impact on the current residents?

  1. anon said at 8:47 pm on Tuesday November 22, 2011:

    I am thrilled to see this - it supports a feeling I’ve had for some time.  Beautiful environments make for happier people.  We’d be much better off employing the un and under employed throughout the city to beautify ALL parts of the city and maintain that work.  Weed sidewalks, sweep trash, plant flowers and trees.  We’d need far fewer police as crime would drop.  People would feel better about their neighborhoods and themselves.  Property values would go up.  Property tax collections would go up.  On and on and on.  Fire whatever percentage of the current police force are slackers that look at their jobs as just a paycheck (seems that would be a high percentage!) and use the money to pay folks to do this worthwhile work.

  1. K David Meit said at 8:35 am on Wednesday November 23, 2011:

    Of course we need more urban green space. Look to Boston’s Copley Square from 1966 to 1991 as a case study.

Join the discussion

UrbanTurf now requires registration in order to post comments. Register here, or login below if you are already registered.

Click here if you forgot your password.




 

Peter Fortner

TTR Sotheby's Int'l Realty

202-497-5703

Serving:

U Street Corridor

Adams Morgan

Shaw

NEW!

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We’ve collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Ballston
Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Clarendon
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Rosslyn
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
Shirlington
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
Huntington
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
Parkfairfax
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »

Maryland

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Annapolis
Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bethesda
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
Potomac
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
Wheaton
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Hyattsville
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Bloomingdale
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
Brightwood
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
Burleith
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
Crestwood
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
Georgetown
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
Kalorama
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
Palisades
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Petworth
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
Shaw
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Takoma
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Tenleytown
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

Brookland
New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
Deanwood
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Eckington
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
Langdon
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
NoMa
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Rosedale
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
Trinidad
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Woodridge
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 'hoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Hillcrest
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »

Upcoming Seminars ▾