August 2012

Volume 21, Number 8

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Urban Trees Curb Shady Behavior

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A new study of crime patterns in the Baltimore region found that increased urban tree cover corresponded to lower crime rates.

Photo: Fletcher6

By Erin Weaver

A new study suggests a strong correlation between urban tree cover and reduced crime, especially on public lands. “The relationship between tree canopy and crime rates across an urban–rural gradient in the greater Baltimore region,” published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning by researchers from the University of Vermont and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, looked at the relationship between tree cover (based on aerial photography) and crime rates in the city of Baltimore and Baltimore County, Maryland.

After controlling for population density and socioeconomic factors, the authors found that, on average, a 10% increase in tree canopy corresponded to a 12% decrease in crime, with the relationship most pronounced on public lands such as city parks. In a few isolated patches, the relationship was reversed, especially in an area of Baltimore between industrial and residential properties where, according to the study, the plant life may be attributed to abandoned, overgrown lots rather than maintained trees. The researchers suggest that tree planting could be prioritized as a public safety matter, as the presence of trees can suggest a neighborhood is well cared for and criminal behavior is more likely to be noticed.

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July 30, 2012