Does Planting More Trees Reduce Crime?

Areas with large trees in public spaces have lower crime rates, so will planting more trees in high crime areas make them safer?

Could planting large trees in urban areas reduce crime? Maybe, say researchers at the U.S. Forest Service. Their work can be read in the journal Environment and Behavior. Here's the abstract:

During the study period (2005-2007), 431 crimes were reported at the 2,813 single-family homes in our sample. In general, the authors find that trees in the public right of way are associated with lower crime rates. The relationship between crime and trees on a house’s lot is mixed. Smaller, view-obstructing trees are associated with increased crime, whereas larger trees are associated with reduced crime. The authors speculate that trees may reduce crime by signaling to potential criminals that a house is better cared for and, therefore, subject to more effective authority than a comparable house with fewer trees.


This sounds like the inverse of something like broken window syndrome: In an area that appears to be cared for, would-be criminals are discouraged. But you have to wonder, as Discovery News does, whether large tree just happen to grow in affluent, established areas.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user --b--