If Philly Had More Trees, There Would Be Less Crime

A new study from Temple University suggests Philadelphia’s crime rate might be lowered if only somebody could be bothered to plant a few more bushes around town. Does vegetation encourage or suppress urban crime? Evidence from Philadelphia, PA was actually published a few months back in Landscape and Urban Planning, an academic journal, but seems to be getting fresh attention this week from the rest of the scientific community.

Researchers Jeremy Mennis and Mary Wolfe undertook the project. Phys.org reports:

They found that the presence of grass, trees and shrubs is associated with lower crime rates in Philadelphia, particularly for robberies and assaults.

The authors surmise this deterrent effect is rooted in the fact that maintained greenery encourages social interaction and community supervision of public spaces, as well the calming effect that vegetated landscapes may impart, thus reducing psychological precursors to violent acts. They offer their findings and related work as evidence for urban planners to use when designing crime prevention strategies, especially important in an age when sustainability is valued.

The findings even held when the authors controlled for poverty, education, and population density. Which means somebody should be doing some tree-planing, and now. Lives may depend on it.