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Greener neighborhoods have less violent crime

Turn your neighborhood green and it may prevent violent crime in the long run, according to a new study in Landscape and Urban Planning, which found that violent crimes (assaults, robberies, and burglaries) occurred less often in greener areas of Philadelphia. The connection between greener neighborhoods and less violent crime even stood up after researchers accounted for education, poverty, and population levels.

“[Our] results indicate that vegetation abundance is significantly associated with lower rates of assault, robbery, and burglary, but not theft,” the researchers, Mary Wolfe and Jeremy Mennis, write in their study.

The scientists hypothesize that the decline in violent crime may be due to greener areas of the city having more people outside and greater community involvement. A second hypothesis is that green areas also alleviate psychological stress, making violent crime less likely. Recent research has found that human beings experience significant psychological benefits simply from spending time in natural spaces.

“This research has implications for urban planning policy, especially as cities are moving towards ‘green’ growth plans and must look to incorporate sustainable methods of crime prevention into city planning,” the researchers note.

CITATION: Mary K. Wolfe and Jeremy Mennis. Does vegetation encourage or suppress urban crime? Evidence from Philadelphia, PA. Landscape and Urban Planning. Volume 108, Issues 2–4, November–December 2012.

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