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The Small, Often Imperceptible Reasons Some Neighborhoods Feel Safer Than Others

Something like trash on the street can rejigger our entire sense of a place.
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PLOS ONE

Your perception of any city or neighborhood is largely determined by things you can't quantify, like the vague feeling that a place just seems friendly, or clean, or well-lit. So much of our experience of cities is subjective like this. But if officials could figure out how to measure otherwise emotional or intuitive perceptions of, say, safety, they might be able to better intervene to make neighborhoods actually feel safer (add more park benches, turn up the lights, wash off the graffiti?).

"I had always assumed that I liked some [places] more, but I hadn’t really given much thought as to why," says Phil Salesses, one of the authors on a new PLOS ONE paper studying the question. "For me it was always a kind of overall gut instinct, an overall feeling. But once I started this project, and I started paying attention to details, I realized that something like trash on the street can flip a bit in my brain."