Cleaning and greening vacant urban lots can lead to a reduction in crime and improvement in health, according to a new study led by a University of Pennsylvania professor.
The decade-long study, led by Penn’s associate professor of epidemiology Charles Branas and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology last week, compared vacant lots in Philadelphia to improved vacant lots that had been greened by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society between 1999 and 2008.
It found a significant reduction in the number of gun assaults in most of the city and a significant reduction in vandalism in one section of the city. It also found that residents in certain sections reported significantly less stress and more exercise.
“Greening is a viable strategy to reduce crime and potentially improve health,” Branas said.
Researchers said that the improved lots likely signaled to criminals that residents cared and were watching the area, while the health benefits came as a result of a cleaner, more attractive environments for residents.