#488 More trees, less crime

By Cathryn Wellner / November 16, 2012

Planting a lot of trees does not eliminate criminal activity, but a study in Baltimore shows what an impact it can have on a city. It seems part of what makes various studies come to different conclusions is the definition of urban greenery. While lower, dense bushes do, indeed, provide hiding places for miscreants, a canopy of trees seems to say, “We care, and we have our eyes on the street.”

To test the relationship between tree cover and crime, the University of Vermont researchers took a look at crime rates and canopy cover throughout Baltimore city and county. They took population density and socioeconomic factors into account and still came up with the good news that increasing the tree canopy by 10% decreased crime by 12%. The decrease soared to 40% in public lands.

Areas where that did not hold true appeared to be places where wild vegetation on abandoned lands created opportunities for criminals. The findings echoed a 2001 study that found that “the greener a building’s surroundings were, the fewer crimes reported. Furthermore, this pattern held for both property crimes and violent crimes.”

Of course, we don’t need crime statistics to argue for urban green spaces. My own city’s Web site lists a lot of the other benefits trees offer, such as better air quality, reduced energy costs, and higher property values.

Whenever we drive through an area with few or no trees or walk by young trees that are suffering from neglect, my partner grumbles. He has a deep love for these woody, leafy neighbours of ours. Turns out there is research to back up his belief they should be planted, and cared for, everywhere.


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