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Exploring the spatial-temporal relationships between a community greening program and neighborhood rates of crime


Urban greening programs may be effective in reducing crime

Emerging hot spot analysis (EHSA) was used in this study to examine the relationship between a community-based greening program and neighborhood crime in Flint, Michigan. The EHSA tool allowed the researchers to combine time and location information from two databases: one relating to the efforts of the “Clean & Green” (C&G) program in Flint and the other relating to crime incidents in different neighborhoods in the city. From the data, hot spots (areas with significant activity) and cold spots (areas with little activity) were identified for both greening intensity and crime-related incidents for each year from 2005-2014.

Since 2004, C&G has been actively involved in greening and maintaining formerly blighted lots in Flint. In 2014 alone, 51 community groups and more than 200 youth participated in C&G in maintaining 1800 properties. While the C&G program isn’t focused exclusively on crime prevention, it is supported by research indicating that a reduction in crime is one of the most important potential outcomes of greening initiatives.

An analysis of the data for this study found that areas with Diminishing Hot Spots and New Cold Spots of crime had higher greening rates. This relationship between increased greening intensity and decreased crime may be due, in part, to increases in collective efficacy and neighborhood guardianship. As residents spend time outdoors maintaining properties, they may also feel safer due to the removal of blight and thus use public space more frequently. Their presence and stewardship activities may be a deterrent to crime. These findings, therefore, may also suggest a possible connection between increased civic participation and reductions in crime.

For Flint, these findings lend support to the C&G program. The net effect of the efforts of dozens of community groups to maintain blighted and vacant land has been a reduction of crime in their neighborhoods. Other communities seeking cost-effective and community building strategies to reduce crime could look to the results in Flint to guide their efforts. They could also make use of emerging hot spot analysis as a tool to assess patterns in crime rates and other spatial phenomena. This information could be useful in making decisions about how and where to intervene to make communities safer and healthier places to live.


Sadler, R.C., Pizarro, J., Turchan , B, Gasteyer, S.P., McGarrell, E.F., (2017). Exploring the spatial-temporal relationships between a community greening program and neighborhood rates of crime. Applied Geography, 83, 13-26.


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