Oddly, the past few weeks I have received emails regarding press stories about trees and crime. Trees so seldom show up in stories on crime unless there are efforts to trim them up or down.
This time some local residents (well, one or two) complained that trees cause crime. Local reporters - perhaps hungry for news copy on a slow day - eagerly hyped the horror-in-the-park story because trees are, apparently, crime causing according to some residents.
True, untrimmed trees that obstruct overhead lights or block sight-lines into risky areas might be a problem, but so are parked cars, dumpsters, large hills and great big heaps of smelly, putrid trash (ok, my polemics got the best of me on that last one). And all that is a problem of maintenance, not trees.
In fact trees cause no more crime than anything else, except they are beautiful, they clean the air of pollutants, control stormwater, provide shade on sunny days, add a green and textured aesthetic to barren parks and they increase property values.
I have blogged before on trees-and-crime and the fact is the overall impact from trees is positive. And data support that contention.
Research by the Illinois Human-Environment Research Laboratory on the Robert Taylor Homes public housing project in Chicago shows treed areas had up to 58% fewer violent crimes. In 2011 the U.S. Forest Service did a similar study in Baltimore and discovered tree canopy’s over roadways corresponded with a 12% reduction in crime.
Yet another study in Portland, Oregon revealed similar tree crime-reducing effects.
It’s not uncommon that myths about crime show up in public debate, but it’s a tragedy when fears based on made-up theories shape public policy.