Another Reason To Green The Asphalt Jungle

When many people think about urban areas, the first things they think about are increased crime and reduced vegetation. These thoughts are perfectly natural because many urban areas do have increased crime rates and you are unlikely to see many trees or green spaces while pounding the pavement. One of the reasons for the lack of vegetation in urban areas is the urban planning myth that vegetation encourages crime. It is believed that vegetation, like trees and bushes, provides criminals a place to hide and therefore enhances criminal activity. A new study, titled “Does vegetation encourage or suppress urban crime? Evidence from Philadelphia, PA”, that was published last month in Landscape and Urban Planning, challenges this myth.

The study,conducted out of Temple University, examined rates of crime in relation to urban vegetation. Researchers took assault, robbery, burglary, and theft data, and analyzed them based on vegetation abundance. Even after controlling for tract-level socioeconomic indicators like education and poverty, the researchers found lower rates of assault, burglary, and robbery in areas with a higher abundance of vegetation.

The researchers came up with two hypotheses behind this association. The first one is that greener areas keep more people outside. Therefore there are more “eyes on the street” and people are more involved in their community. The other hypothesis is that the green eases psychological stresses, making violent crime less likely.  Either way, the study suggests that vegetation serves as a possible tool for crime deterrence.

During my junior year of undergraduate I attended a captivating conference in Philadelphia on Urban Planning.  The conference emphasized the importance of outdoor spaces in urban planning and totally changed how I conceptualized urban planning and design. The greening of urban spaces provides a range of health, environmental, and social benefits. Temple’s study gives urban planners another reason to consider the use of vegetation in designing safe and healthy communities.

urban planning via shutterstock

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

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