Fight Crime One Tree at a Time?

(PCM) Stop cutting down trees! Not only does it hurt planet – from the air we breathe to the animals that habitat in forests – but trees might help fight crime!

Researchers from the University of Vermont found a link between trees and crime in the Baltimore area. When the city and its county planted just 10 percent more trees, the incidence of robbery, theft, burglary, and shooting decreased by about 12 percent!

The study, published online in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, suggests that environmental factors, and not just more police, can help fight crime, and challenges the notion that thick vegetation gives concealment to car thefts, muggings, and other acts of crime.

“It stands to reason because a shade tree allows you to sit out on your steps and be more neighborly and watch out for the community,” said Sarah Lord, head of Baltimore’s forestry board.

J. Morgan Grove, a social ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service and one of the study’s three authors, has a few theories. According to the Baltimore Sun:

Trees “get people outside,” Shady streets are cooler in summer, encouraging people to sit or stroll outside. And criminals likely avoid places where their deeds might be spotted and reported, Grove suggested. It’s also likely that a block lined with healthy trees encourages troublemakers to see it as a tight-knit area where people look out for each other.

Whereas when there’s visible signs of disrepair in a community, like broken windows, it tends to encourage vandalism and escalate criminal activity, Grove adds.

“In the tree world, we call it the ’empty tree pit’ theory,” said Grove, referring to the holes cut in sidewalks to accommodate trees. “If you have trees in the pits … they’re symbols of the fact that the neighborhood is cared about. … If they see you breaking into someone’s car, they’re going to call the cops.”

It’s time to start planting trees!

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