Public parks and other types of green spaces within urban areas have been known to prevent crime. Although this assessment is not held unanimously, a recent study conducted by a team of researchers at Clemson and NC State universities gives credence that green areas do in fact reduce crime.
In 2017, the universities began collecting data relating to crime, parks, and green space from 300 of the largest cities in the U.S. One caveat to this study was the necessity to differentiate “parks” and “green space.”
Researchers defined “green space” according to the amount of greenery and foliage on any particular landscape. A “park” was defined as an open space managed by the city’s public works department. This distinction was important due to the often vague and broad use of the two terms.
Taking into account the impact of social factors on crime such as income, diversity, and population density, the study demonstrated that all but 3 of the 300 cities reported lower crime rates in green spaces.
Some scholars indicate that contact with nature eliminates the feelings of stress and aggression that are associated with crime. People are happier when surrounded by the outdoors and therefore less likely to misbehave.
Green spaces and parks also encourage positive interaction with other people. The more that people interact with one another, the easier it will be to spot a potential crime. It’s a lot more difficult to commit a crime when there are “more eyes on the streets.”
The previous summary was positive in regard to a city’s lower crime rate being associated with more green space. However, the second phase of the study that focused solely on urban parks didn’t yield the same results.
Violent crime increased anywhere from 28% to 64% in four U.S. city neighborhoods with a park nearby. And property crime was up 38% to 63% in other areas close to urban parks.
Parks and green spaces are a necessary commodity for any city in order to promote well-being, physical activity, and community. As each city pursues these ideas, crime will begin to decline. The biggest influence on whether or not urban parks and green spaces deter crime is how well they are maintained.
A well-managed park, regardless of where it is located, will have a greater chance of preventing crime. Although it may be harder in some cities, it’s not impossible. It truly does “take a village.”