Study: Green space can reduce violent crime, gun violence

uva healthA UVA researcher assisted in a new study that shows that green space has the potential to reduce violent crime.

Important caveat: there actually is a factor to how the green space is designed and maintained.

The findings come from a team of scientists who have assembled a big-picture review of research on the complicated relationship between nature and crime in urban areas. They identified several patterns that can help inform public policy, guide urban design and promote neighborhoods that are safe and pleasant to live in.

“All of us had some sort of experience, personally or through family members. And we thought maybe we can do something about it,” said Hessam Sadatsafavi, PhD, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine. “How to control violent crime is a polarizing issue. We are interested to see, as designers whose work is to shape the physical environment, if it’s possible for us to contribute to this conversation and to take some actions to see if we, personally, can contribute to reducing crime.”

The research, initiated at Cornell University, sought to synthesize the findings of many previous studies that looked at the effects of various forms of green space on crime and criminal behavior.

“We said, OK, we have to start by understanding what is out there in terms of theory, what other people have found,” Sadatsafavi said. “Green space can be a source of or increase the risk of crime in a neighborhood through some mechanism, and it can also reduce the risk. So why is that happening? Is there any way to find a solution to make the risk reduction more effective?”

Nine studies looked at the effect of green space on gun violence. Six found that such interventions reduced crime, while three were inconclusive.

“There is evidence that greening interventions at the urban level reduces violent crime, specifically gun violence,” said Sadatsafavi, of UVA’s Department of Emergency Medicine.

“By looking at all these studies, we were able to propose possible pathways [to reduce crime and] put together an overall picture of why this is happening, both in terms of gun violence and in terms of overall crime rate.”

To keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA, subscribe to the Making of Medicine blog at makingofmedicine.virginia.edu.


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