First we hear trees are kicking criminal tail, and now it turns out p-patch veggies are not to be messed with. That kale your neighbor planted packs a punch. Both as a dose of nutritious fiber, vitamins and minerals, and as a kind of a natural security guard. Superfoods, indeed!

Community gardens have been long-regarded as symbols of neighborhood revitalization, but could a well-tended patch of grass actually help fight crime? A recently published study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine suggests the answer may be yes.

Researchers randomly selected two clusters of vacant lots in Philadelphia — one that was later greened and one that functioned as the control — to examine the effects of greening. The researchers found that greening the vacant lots made nearby residents feel significantly safer, and that the greened lots could be linked to reductions in certain gun crimes in the area. Police crime data showed that area assaults both with and without guns lessened after the greening. Researchers posited that the difference could be chalked up to the fact that it’s easier to hide illegal guns and illicit activity in a trash-laden lot than it is in a green space, and that the greening may have fostered a greater sense of unity within the neighborhood.

The data expands upon findings from a study led by Penn epidemiologist Charles Branas, published in 2011, which compared thousands of greened and non-greened vacant lots over a nine-year period. The work of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia LandCare Program — an initiative responsible for the greening of 4,500 vacant lots, or 7.8 million square feet, from 1999 to 2008 — served as the basis for the study. The results of the study suggest that vacant lot greening was associated with reductions in gun assaults and vandalism in certain areas, and reports of reduced stress and increased exercise among residents in other areas… (Continue Reading: The Urban Garden as Crime Fighter – Next American City)


For Nate it was a summer in New York City that sparked a passion for urban planning, livability, development and transportation issues. He has worked for housing and health care non-profits, mortgage and commercial real estate companies, hospitality and aviation brands as well as transit lines and other government agencies. Nate is a Great City board member.