Urban Green Spaces Could Reduce Crime

A new study finds that cleaning up and restoring derelict lots could lead to a decrease in city gun violence

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Increasing green spaces in urban areas could reduce crime, according to a new study. Drug dealing and criminal behavior occur frequently in derelict lots, researchers told Scientific American in an article about the study, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The scientists split 541 empty lots in rundown areas of Philadelphia into three “treatment” groups. They either cleaned up the lots, didn’t do anything, or both cleaned up and made them “green” by planting trees, installing a fence and cultivating a lawn. In the 18 months that followed the cleanup, police records showed a 9.1 percent decrease in gun assaults in low-income areas that were cleaned and turned green. A survey given to nearby residents showed they now had less safety concerns when going outside and were more willing to relax and spend time outdoors. The researchers predict that if all vacant lots in just the city of Philadelphia were to be subjected to the same cleaning and greening treatment—that would cost around $9,300 for a 1,000-foot lot, and $50 a year thereafter—there would be 350 fewer shootings a year. 

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