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April 8th, 2013 at 10:23 am

More trees equals less crime in urban neighborhoods: Study

Greener neighborhoods have significantly fewer crimes than non-vegetated areas.

Do you feel more safe or less safe if you down the street from a small urban park? It has been thought to work both ways. Burglars could be concealed by shrubs or a sidewalk lined with trees could obstruct a clear view of the street.  But then, crime might be deterred because a green space could encourage people to spend more time in public areas.

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A new study finds that, in Philadelphia at least, greener neighborhoods have significantly fewer crimes than non-vegetated areas. And this effect held true even after the researchers controlled for socioeconomic factors.

The researchers began with crime data for 2005 across the city, broken down by neighborhood (each containing a few thousand people) and type of crime: assault, robbery, burglary or theft. (The authors chose not to include rape and murder because they are relatively rare.) They combined this data with images taken the same year by NASA’s Landsat satellite. The satellite carries a sensor which can detect chlorophyll remotely, from which the researchers calculated an average “greenness” of each neighborhood.

Photo credit: Washington State Department of Natural Resources

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