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Revitalizing Vacant Lots Can Drastically Reduce Neighborhood Crime, Study Says

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A new study, in Philadelphia, suggests that revitalizing vacant lots into safe green spaces, can drastically reduce neighborhood crime by nearly a third.

The study, conducted by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, suggests that by cleaning trash and debris from blighted properties, leveling the ground, and seeding new grass, overall crime rates in the neighborhood can drop by as much as 29 percent.

"The way we measured the outcome is by looking at resident reports, but also by looking at the crime data," says Bernadette Holh, Assistant Professor at Rutgers School of Public Health, who was part of the team that conducted the study.

"It started with some grass-roots efforts from residents of the city of Philadelphia who have identified the vacant land as really being problematic," said Hohl. "It was showing an effect on crime and the way folks sort of had reported and that was using more administrative data."

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The team gathered a randomized list of 541 properties, out of Philadelphia's 40,000 vacant lots. They examined the neighborhoods, crime statistics and interviewed residents 18 months before and after they cleaned the spaces.

"Crime overall, gun violence, burglary and nuisance crimes were all reduced," she says. "For sure there were reduction in gun assaults.

She says residents overwhelming reported feeling safer about their neighborhood.

"It really allows an option for cities that are struggling with an overabundance of vacant spaces," Hohl concludes. "This really provides the cities a scalable and relatively cost-effective option to reduce those crimes in their city, but also provide safe spaces for the residents."

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