Greener Neighborhoods are Safer Communities

Can urban greening really reduce crime by 50%? Efforts in Chicago, Jacksonville, St. Louis, and Minneapolis are proving just that. Greener communities are victim to significantly less crime.

Urban forestry is simply about trees in places where people live.
Ultimately, conservation is about empowering citizens to improve the communities where they live and work. The Alliance for Community Trees is the only national organization working to improve the urban forests where 80% of Americans live- our cities, towns, and villages. ACT’s national office assembles coalitions that drive broad environmental success for our more than 180 organizations in 41 states in the pursuit of Clean Air, Green Streets, and Healthy Neighborhoods.
Greenery lowers crime through several mechanisms. First, greenery helps people to relax and renew, reducing aggression. Second, green spaces bring people together outdoors, increasing surveillance and discouraging criminals. Relatedly, the green and groomed appearance of an apartment building is a cue to criminals that owners and residents care about a property and watch over it and each other.
Greenery creates a sense of community. Residents who live near trees have significantly better relations with and stronger ties to their neighbors. They have more visitors, socialize more with their neighbors, know more people in their apartment building, and have a stronger sense of community than people who live in places without trees. They also like where they are living more, feel better adjusted to living there, and feel safer than residents who have few trees around them.
More Trees = Less Crime in Chicago, IL
Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes is the largest public housing development in the world. The Robert Taylor Homes consist of 28 sixteen-story apartment buildings. Most of the complex is an urban desert- concrete and asphalt cover the spaces between the buildings- but there are pockets of trees here and there. In 2001, Frances Kuo and Bill Sullivan of the University of Illinois Human-Environment Research Laboratory studied how well the residents of Robert Taylor were doing in their daily lives based on the amount of contact they had with these trees. Residents from buildings with high levels of greenery reported:

  • 48% fewer property crimes
  • 56% fewer violent crimes
  • Less procrastination in dealing with their major life issues (for women)
  • Problems to be less difficult and of shorter duration (for women)
  • 9% fewer individuals actually engaged in crime themselves (for women)
  • Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design in Jacksonville, FL
    The City of Jacksonville Parks Department and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office are working closely with Greenscape of Jacksonville to identify new methods to reduce crime, utilizing Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). CPTED is a concept that brings together planners, designers and law enforcement to create a climate of safety by designing a physical environment that positively influences human behavior.
    Economic Development in St. Louis, MO
    Gateway Greening studied the economic development successes of community gardening in St. Louis. Some of the positive effects included crime reduction to both property and people, increased property values and improvement of property, improvements in the overall appearance of the neighborhood, and increased feelings of safety.
    Community Gardens in Minneapolis, MN
    GardenWorks Minnesota has compiled a list of research-based benefits of community gardens ranging from improved diets and crime prevention to healthier urban ecosystems and local economies. Other key metrics include an increase in exercise, better local food production, an increase in the use of the outdoors as a classroom for youth, and horticultural therapy. In addition, community gardens add beauty to the community and heighten people’s awareness and appreciation for living things.
    At this moment, the nation wants action to secure safe and healthy communities, action that goes beyond buzzwords such as green and sustainable. Healthy urban forests are key to helping our growing cities and towns to address public health and safety concerns.
    Find Out More:
    Urban Forestry at the Forest Service
    Greener Healthier Neighborhoods
    Trees and Smart Growth
    The Alliance for Community Trees is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization (EIN # 68-0319301), and also participates in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC # 12402). To discuss planned giving opportunities, call us at 301-277-0040.