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Another Reason to Love Urban Green Space: It Fights Crime

A new body of evidence suggests that adding greenery in vacant or gray settings reduces criminal activity nearby.
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Flickr / Mike Linksvayer

There are plenty of reasons to like green spaces in cities: they’re pretty, they catch stormwater runoff, they improve health. And now a new body of evidence is coming into focus on how urban nature affects crime. It appears that the way we take care of our trees, shrubs, and lawns makes a difference for the safety of the surrounding area.

The field of research is still pretty young, but recent studies have found significant associations between green space maintenance and certain types of crime in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Youngstown, Ohio. The exact mechanism is not yet known, but one theory harkens back to Jane Jacobs’ notion of “eyes on the street”: well-kept lawns and community plots encourage more people to spend time outside in those spaces, leading to a greater degree of informal surveillance of the area and deterring crime.