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What are the effects of green space on violent crime?

A review of multiple studies investigates the effects of outdoor green spaces on violent crime rates in communities. 

Outdoor green spaces, such as parks, forests, and fields, are thought to have many positive effects on communities.  For example, they promote physical well-being by providing a place for exercise and strengthening the immune system.  They also promote mental well-being by encouraging people to spend more time outdoors and providing a place for community members to socialize.  Finally, they help protect the environment by improving air quality and preserving many different plant and animal species. 

Since outdoor green spaces are beneficial to communities and provide places for its members to interact, some researchers wonder whether they could potentially help reduce the rates of violent crime.  As of 2018, the overall violent crime rate in the United States was 382.9 crimes reported for every 100,000 Americans.  Given that this number only includes reported crimes, the rate of actual violent crimes is likely higher.  To help investigate possible solutions, a United States review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health looks into the effects of green space on violent crime rates. 

Researchers at Cornell University screened over 14,000 papers about green space and crime, and 327 were evaluated.  A total of 45 papers were selected for analysis in the report.  The topic of green space included areas covered by trees and parks, and the topic of violent crime included murder, assault, and theft. 

Well-maintained outdoor green spaces were associated with decreased rates of violent crime in many of the studies.  Gun violence, in particular, was negatively correlated with green space, as this was displayed in six out of nine studies regarding gun violence.  However, poorly-maintained green space was associated with a greater risk of crime in a handful of studies.

The findings of this review suggest that well-maintained green spaces could potentially help reduce violent crime rates in communities.  More research is needed to confirm this, as many of the studies reviewed were inconclusive.  Additionally, more research is needed to determine how to properly maintain green spaces so communities can reap the benefits. 

Written by Avery Bisbee

References:

Shepley, A., Sachs, N., Sadatsafavi, H., Fournier, C., & Peditto, K. (2019). The Impact of Green Space on Violent Crime in Urban Environments: An Evidence Synthesis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health16(24). doi: 10.3390/ijerph16245119

EurekAlert. (2020, February 27). Study reveals how green space can reduce violent crime. Retrieved March 3, 2020, from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-02/uovh-sr022720.php

Green Space is Good for Mental Health. (n.d.). Retrieved March 3, 2020, from https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145305/green-space-is-good-for-mental-health

Statista. (2020, January 28). Topic: Violent crime in the U.S. Retrieved March 3, 2020, from https://www.statista.com/topics/1750/violent-crime-in-the-us/

Image by Just killing time from Pixabay 

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