Today, April 22, is internationally Earth Day (Happy Earth Day 2016)! This week, our blog will focus on green space and how it can affect our cities. Green space is simply what it sounds like: an area of grass, trees, or other vegetation set apart for recreational or aesthetic purposes in an otherwise urban environment. While people work hard to replenish the earth with the planting of new trees, our cities are expanding; Growing and improving with every change, striving to provide anything and everything for its citizens.
Image Credit: 100 Resilient Cities
Green space is important in our environments: important to have, and important to continue its creation. It provides solutions for stormwater runoff, they improve health in your communities. Plus they're pretty! All the more reason to have them, right? According to newer research, there's evidence that these spaces can even affect crime levels. How we take care of these parks, walkways, etc, can contribute to reducing the crime levels in that neighbourhood.
Youngstown, Ohio has been a city that has been going through a rough patch, struggling with high unemployment and economic stagnation. The city decided to see if transforming the environment would benefit the communities, by launching two programs to turn the abandoned areas into green spaces: one program was using a hired contractor and the second program gave local communities funding to improve lots of their choice. This situation allowed them to observe a natural experiment.
A study published last year showed that in the areas where the areas had been brushed up and improved, crime rates had decreased.
It's easy to understand that areas that are pleasant to view will encourage people to be outside. The simple fact that there are more people around, will increase the informal surveillance in the area. This means there is less inclination to commit heat-of-the-moment crimes that could cause a scene. But it wasn't just an overall drop in crime rate, there were certain types of crime that decreased more than others.
The contracted lots saw a greater decline in property crime, while the community lots had a more pronounced reduction in violent crime..."The findings suggest different types of green space have different effects on crime. The contracted lots may have better visibility, which deters theft by eliminating vegetation that can hide assailants or stashed loot." - Michelle Kondo, an author of the study and a research social scientist with the U.S. Forest Service.
With the continually growing populations, these cities are now becoming more condensed to the point where green space is something that is becoming scarce, or seemingly insignificant. Contrarily, green space is actually a necessity in our cities. Not only for the preservation of nature or to help clean the environment, but it has influence on other aspects of our communities as well.