The greening of vacant lots in urban neighborhoods has a number of obvious benefits: a place to gather and play in neighborhoods where there may be no other such place, an opportunity to produce fresh vegetables, and more. A new University of Pennsylvania study has become the closest study yet to confirming another benefit urban greening activists have long suspected: they make surrounding residents feel safer.
Why? The lead author of the study, Penn’s Eugenia C. Garvin, M.D. suspects “that transforming vacant lots from a space overgrown with vegetation and filled with trash to a clean and green space may make it difficult for people to hide illegal guns and conduct other illegal activities such as drug use in or near the space. Additionally, green space may encourage community cohesion,” meaning that a new common space makes neighbors less suspicious of one another.
Researchers studied this issue by choosing two clusters of vacant housing, one which was due to be greened and one which was not. They interviewed twenty-one residents living near both of the sites before one of the lots was greened, and three months after the greening. Not only did those living adjacent to the new green space feel safer than those from the control group after greening, data regarding total crime and assaults with and without a weapon show that the control site was indeed less safe during the second round of interviews as compared to the area surrounding the green site.
An abstract and full text of the study are available on the website of the journal Injury Prevention.