Maintaining green parks and gardens in cities has the potential to lower the risk of crime, research suggests.
More green space in a city is linked with lower risk of crime against property — such as burglary, arson and vandalism — and less risk of violent offences, the study found.
Researchers analysed data from 301 cities in the United States with populations of more than 100,000.
The link between green space and lower property crime risk was found in 300 of the cities — Cape Coral in Florida was the exception — and in all but three cities — Chicago, Detriot and Newark — for violent crime risk.
Importantly, this was the case even when accounting for other factors linked to crime such as demographics and poverty.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, North Carolina State University and Clemson University, in the United States used data from the United States Census Bureau.
They used a statistical technique known as multilevel modelling to investigate and predict the relationship between crime risk and green spaces using data collected from approximately 60,000 neighbourhood units.
The researchers combined the census data with a number of other datasets including crime risk and the FBI’s Crime and Law Enforcement statistics. The researchers also considered data relating to household income disadvantage.
The study found the strongest positive predictor of violent crime risk was social disadvantage, in line with many studies on the causes of crime. Green space was a consistent predictor of reduced violent and property crime risk.
Researchers say although it is uncertain how exactly green space influences crime, the findings add more evidence to the benefits of having green space in urban areas.
Dr Scott Ogletree of the OPENspace Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh’s College of Art, said: “The findings suggest that green space may contribute to lower crime risk in neighbourhoods. This is in addition to many other benefits linked to greener cities. Green space may help reduce precursors of crime, like aggression and stress, through restoration and these findings point to the value of considering the design and location of green space to improve quality of life for residents.”