MSU study: Well-kept vacant lots can be crimefighters


EAST LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – How can a lawnmower be a crimefighting machine?

When it’s used to help maintain vacant lots.

A new Michigan State University study reviewed nine years of crime statistics in Flint and compared those numbers to data from a greening program where thousands of abandoned lots were regularly mowed and maintained.

Urban geographer Richard Sadler assigned a “greening score” to each neighborhood based on how the vacant lots were kept up. “Generally speaking, I found that greening was more prevalent where violent crime, property crime and victimless crime were going down,” said Sadler, an assistant professor of public health in the College of Human Medicine.

The study is based upon the Clean and Green program in the Genesee County Land Bank Authority that began 13 years ago.

That group found that over the years, the neighborhoods where vacant lots were maintained saw a decrease in crime.

Sadler says that eliminating blight and getting the community involved has several benefits, including less stress and depression for residents, as well as fewer assaults, burglaries and robberies.

He adds that programs such as Clean and Green make properties more attractive but alert potential criminals that residents are keeping an eye on the neighborhood.

“It’s people looking out for their own neighborhoods,” he said. “If you know somebody’s watching, you’re not going to go out and vandalize something. It’s the overall change in perception created by cleaning up blighted property.”

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