MSU study examines crime reduction through greening

Apr 19, 2017

Landscaping the yards of vacant properties can help reduce crime rates in urban neighborhoods, according to a new Michigan State University study.

The study paired nine years of crime statistics in Flint, Michigan, with data from a greening program that mowed and maintained the yards of vacant lots.

Richard Sadler, an urban geographer as well as the study’s lead author, assigned each neighborhood a “greening score” based on the upkeep of the yards of vacant properties.

“Generally speaking, I found that greening was more prevalent where violent crime, property crime and victimless crime were going down,” Sadler told MSU Today.

The inspiration for the study came from Genesee County Land Bank Authority’s Clean and Green program. They discovered that over the years, maintaining vacant caused crime to decline.

The auto industry leaving Flint left many of its citizens impoverished. This paired with a decreasing police force, saw Flint’s crime rate rise to one of the highest in the nation.

In 2017, approximately 42 percent of Flint properties are either publicly owned or simply vacant.

Sadler’s study indicates that programs such as Clean and Green make properties more attractive for development and alert potential criminals that the properties are being watched.

“If you know somebody’s watching, you’re not going to go out and vandalize something. It’s the overall change in perception created by cleaning up blighted property.” Sadler told MSU Today.