Sense of community growing up around greenery can deter crime, Temple study says

Can having trees and shrubs near your home facilitate crime by allowing criminals to lurk nearby or make a quick getaway? 

Some new research from Temple University is challenging a long accepted convention and offering tips that could aid in the prevention of aggravated assault, robbery and other crime. 

Abundant, well-maintained greenery may help deter some crime, says Jeremy Mennis, a Temple University associate professor of geography and urban studies. 

“The first idea is that when you have well-maintained vegetation in places like parks or other kinds of natural settings, that it encourages people to come outside and interact with one another,” he said.

As neighbors interact with one another in these kinds of settings, a sense of community builds up.  

“And when you have that sense of community, you have this idea that people are looking out for each other, they’re looking out for their neighborhood,” Mennis said. “So when you have these eyes on the street, if you will, that’s a suppressing effect on crime because criminals don’t want to act in front of other people watching them. 

“So when you have this bigger sense of community, you’re going to suppress crime,” he said.

In addition to promoting social interaction and community supervision of public spaces, the vegetation can have a calming effect that may reduce psychological precursors to violent acts, Mennis said.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal