Busy Streets

Featured image for “Busy Streets”

Cleaning up vacant properties, securing abandoned buildings, and repurposing vacant lots into community gardens are just a few of the ways communities can create the safe and connected neighborhoods characteristic of Busy Streets.


Busy streets are safe, inviting places where neighbors know and trust each other. Busy Streets Theory (BST) suggests that when neighbors and community organizations collaborate on improving their environments, they create an upward spiral of neighborhood improvement. That’s because these positive interactions build the organized environments and protective community relationships that promote well-being and deter violence. BST informs our research strategies focused on preventing crime and violence through improving built environments and connecting residents in the process.

Key Findings

Public Safety

Flint, MI: Streets surrounding vacant lots that were greened by community residents had 40% fewer assaults and violent crimes than streets surrounding unmaintained lots (Heinze et al. 2018).

Youngstown, OH: On streets surrounding vacant lots that were greened by community residents, violent crime was reduced at a rate that was two times higher than on streets surrounding professionally greened lots. On streets surrounding lots that received no care, violent crime increased (Gong et al. 2022).

Mental Health

  • Engaging in community greening increased residents’ sense of community, social connectedness, and efficacy to create neighborhood change (Rupp et al. 2020)
  • Community residents living in neighborhoods with better maintained properties felt less fearful than residents in neighborhoods with more poorly maintained properties (Burt et al. 2022)

Related Resources

Key Publications

Rauk, L., Rupp, L., Hohl, B. C., Kondo, M. C., Ornelas, L., Carter, P. M., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2023). Lessons learned from local vacant land management organizations for engaging youth in greening. American Journal of Community Psychology, ajcp.12688. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajcp.12688
Rupp, L. A., Kondo, M. C., Hohl, B. C., Sing, E. K., Grodzinski, A. R., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2022). The effects of organizations engaging residents in greening vacant lots: Insights from a United States national survey. Cities, 125, 103669. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2022.103669
Gong, C., Bushman, G., Hohl, B., Kondo, M., Carter, P., Cunningham, R., Rupp, L., Grodzinski, A., Branas, C., Vagi, K., & Zimmerman, M. (2022). Community engagement, greening, and violent crime: a test of the greening hypothesis and busy streets. Injury Prevention, 28(Suppl 1), A44–A44. https://doi.org/10.1136/injuryprev-2022-SAVIR.113
Sokol, R. L., Bushman, G., Gong, C. H., Rupp, L., Ryan, J. P., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2022). Associations Between Micro-neighborhood Greening and Child Maltreatment. International Journal on Child Maltreatment: Research, Policy and Practice. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42448-021-00109-2
Burt, C. J., Kondo, M. C., Hohl, B. C., Gong, C. H., Bushman, G., Wixom, C., South, E. C., Cunningham, R. M., Carter, P. M., Branas, C. C., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2021). Community Greening, Fear of Crime, and Mental Health Outcomes. American Journal of Community Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajcp.12544
Rupp, L. A., Zimmerman, M. A., Sly, K. W., Reischl, T. M., Thulin, E. J., Wyatt, T. A., & Stock, J. J. P. (2020). Community-Engaged Neighborhood Revitalization and Empowerment: Busy Streets Theory in Action. American Journal of Community Psychology, 65(1–2), 90–106. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajcp.12358
Jay, J., Miratrix, L. W., Branas, C. C., Zimmerman, M. A., & Hemenway, D. (2019). Urban building demolitions, firearm violence and drug crime. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 42(4), 626–634. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-019-00031-6
Heinze, J. E., Krusky-Morey, A., Vagi, K. J., Reischl, T. M., Franzen, S., Pruett, N. K., Cunningham, R. M., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2018). Busy Streets Theory: The Effects of Community-engaged Greening on Violence. American Journal of Community Psychology, 62(1–2), 101–109. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajcp.12270
Aiyer, S. M., Zimmerman, M. A., Morrel-Samuels, S., & Reischl, T. M. (2015). From Broken Windows to Busy Streets A Community Empowerment Perspective. Health Education & Behavior, 42(2), 137–147. https://doi.org/10.1177/1090198114558590
Krusky, A. M., Heinze, J. E., Reischl, T. M., Aiyer, S. M., Franzen, S. P., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2015). The effects of produce gardens on neighborhoods: A test of the greening hypothesis in a post-industrial city. Landscape and Urban Planning, 136, 68–75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2014.12.003