A study by the U. S. Forest Service has found that certain kinds of trees can reduce crime in an urban neighborhood. Certain kinds of trees. It’s really interesting. I had heard this on NPR last week, but didn’t write down the reference and couldn’t find it on the npr.org site. Then I tried to google it and only came up with sites that said trees and bushes around a house attracted thieves. Then I gave up.
But a commenter mentioned it here on Sunday and then the article appeared in my Yahoo mailbox yesterday. The study looked at crime statistics in Portland from 2005–2007, focusing on types of crime, locations, and a number of other factors, including number and size of trees. It found that large trees were associated with a reduction in crime, while numerous small trees were associated with an increase. So, in addition to benefits from storm water reduction, energy conservation, cleaner air and increased property values, trees can cut down on crime—if they’re big enough. Watch for a similar study coming to a city near you.
The speculation is that large mature trees make a neighborhood look well-cared for and, because of their higher canopy, do not hide criminal behavior as well as a shorter tree would.
Maybe. I think well-cared-for properties in general impede certain types of petty crime, but I also think that any property has break-in potential in a city. Or in a lot of suburbs for that matter. You have to be smart and follow a few precautionary strategies. If there have been break-ins in your neighborhood, then get a security system, use house-sitters, and be smart about your lights. You should have trees anyway. I am also not sure that it would inspire homeowners to plant trees because they would not see the big tree benefit for decades. But if it does cause them to plant trees, then all well and good.
Speaking of trees, there is also an interesting discussion going on on the Garden Writers’ Listserv about using fruit trees as street trees. Apparently, Chico, CA uses citrus and Boston has fruit trees along a major artery. The fruit is welcome in both cases. We don’t do it here. I think it would work better in public community gardening spaces.