Researchers have reported that improving the condition of vacant lots through greening (e.g. remediation, mowing, landscaping) can help to reduce fear of crime and violence. Busy Streets Theory (BST) suggests that residents who are involved in neighborhood improvement can help to establish orderly physical environments and social connections that can deter crime and violence. Yet few researchers have explored how community engagement in the greening process may affect crime and violence outcomes. We applied BST to test the effects of community-engaged vacant lot greening compared to vacant lots that received either professional mowing, or no treatment, on the density of violent crime around study lots. Using mixed effects models, we analyzed trends in violent crime density over the summer months from 2016–2018 at 2,102 street segments in Youngstown, OH. These street segments fell within 150m of an intervention parcel that was classified as one of three conditions: community engaged maintenance, professional mowing, or no treatment. We found that street segments in areas receiving community engaged maintenance or professional mowing experienced greater declines in violent crime density than street segments in areas receiving no treatment, and more decline occurred in the community-engaged condition compared to the professional mow condition. Our findings support Busy Streets Theory and suggest that community-engaged greening of vacant lots in post-industrial cities with concentrated vacancy can reduce crime and violence.
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