Written by: Susan Franzen, MS
Say hello, Flint! The 2015 Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center (MI-YVPC) property assessors are out in Flint neighborhoods looking for the effects of neighborhood improvement projects, greening, and blight, on crime rates and the conditions of surrounding properties. Several teams of trained observers will rate the buildings and landscaping around the property parcels in designated areas within the city of Flint. They are assessing whether or not the properties: are occupied or vacant, have broken and/or boarded windows, have graffiti and/or fire damage, and have discarded appliances/vehicles. They are also rating the properties on amounts of litter and trash present, mowing, landscaping, and exterior building maintenance.
Evidence suggests that green surroundings make prettier, safer and healthier neighborhoods. Our previous research from the 2011 MI-YVPC Property Assessments found that properties near community vegetable gardens were better maintained than properties located further away from the gardens. In addition, another study found that properties close to gardens are more likely to have gardens. If your neighbor plants a garden, you are more likely to plant a garden. Neighbors walking by may engage with other residents working on their property. These greening activities may increase resident interaction, social bonding, and social accountability.
Crime correlates with property conditions. Researchers found lower rates in felony assaults, burglaries, robberies and violent felonies in areas around community green space. A Saginaw study found that there was less crime in the area where vacant buildings had been removed. If people like these acts of greening and blight elimination, it may lower frustration levels, irritability and anger thereby preventing violent behaviors.
Property conditions in your neighborhood may also affect your physical health. A small study in Philadelphia found that the heart rate of participants lowered between 5 and 15 beats a minute when walking by greened lots when compared to unimproved lots. This suggests that greening can reduce stress levels.
Although much of this research is in the preliminary stages, it seems that greening projects and blight elimination can improve the health and safety of residents. If further studies of greening and blight elimination find similar results, policy makers may soon have a low cost option to lower crime rates and increase community health. So, if you see people wearing green MI-YVPC shirts carrying clipboards or binders walking through your neighborhood, say hello- they may be working on the next link to neighborhood health and safety!
For more information about our Property Assessment, please contact Susan Franzen (firstname.lastname@example.org)