Restoring Vacant Lots Reduces Gun Violence and Crime

MacDonald pic

In cities across the U.S., about 15 percent of land is considered vacant or abandoned. These areas can foster criminal activity, and urban residents, especially those in low-income neighborhoods, often view vacant land as a threat to their health and safety. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, the University of California, Los Angeles, Rutgers University, and the U.S. Forest Service found that remediating these spaces can have a dramatic effect on both the perceptions of crime and vandalism and on the acts themselves.

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed that neighborhoods where vacant lots were cleaned up experienced a 29 percent reduction in gun violence, 22 percent decrease in burglaries, and 30 percent drop in nuisances like noise complaints, public drunkenness, and illegal dumping.

“Our analyses showed a substantial reduction in crime,” says John MacDonald, Professor of Criminology and senior paper author, “particularly, a large reduction in gun assaults in neighborhoods that were in the lower 50 percent of income distribution in Philadelphia.”

The study, conducted in Philadelphia, is believed to be the first randomized controlled trial of its type.

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