A person pushing a gas lawnmower across a bright green lawn

A well-kept property and reduced crime

There was an interesting online article about how well-kept properties could reduce crime in a neighbourhood. However it didn’t explain how healthy mowed lawns and planting trees reduced crime. I decided to do some added research to see how it tied together in creating safer communities.

There were some obvious advantages outlined on how landscaping of a yard can deter crime.  For instance, large bushes or trees that block windows and entryways can provide privacy for someone to hide and possibly gain access to you home. A simple solution was to trim trees so that low hanging branches don’t obstruct a window, door or walkway. Trimming bushes under a window was also suggested along with considering planting a thorny-bush.  Additional ways to use landscaping to make a property a harder target were also suggested. Many of which were familiar as they are part of the well-known practice of (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED pronounced sep-ted).  That seemed straight forward, but what about mowing a lawn?  How does that deter crime?

That question brought me to a point where four fairly well-known ideas and people seemed to converge: CPTED, Neighbourhood Watch, the broken windows hypothesis and Jane Jacob (namesake for Jane’s Walk).

Basically the idea can be explained as this; people show they care about their property by (you guessed it) caring for their property.  People that care about their property are more likely to pay attention and care about what happens on their street.  That tied-in with Jane Jacob’s concept of “Eyes on the Street” which indicates that well-kept properties encourage people to spend time outside which lends to the practice of informal surveillance. That made perfect sense. People are outside both tending and enjoying to their yards & homes. While being outside people are providing that informal surveillance. This fits perfectly with ENW’s program goals in which we encourage residents to practice what the Neighbourhood Watch signs say “we report suspicious activities to police”.  However, that brought up the question whether this would still apply when residents were not physically in their yards? Can a care-for appearance make a difference in crime prevention?  In the article “The relationship between residential yard management and neighborhood crime” done in Baltimore it referenced a growing amount of literature that suggests well-kept properties are “cues to care”. That theory can be seen as an inverse to the well-known crime theory of the “broken window”. The broken windows hypothesis suggests that if a neighbourhood is uncared for, in disrepair with “broken windows”, and it remains that way, it indicates that the people in the neighbourhood don’t care.  It suggests that criminals look for areas to target based on the level of neglect.  If true, the inverse suggests that when people take care of their property it shows an increased level of involvement and awareness.  People living in properties that are well-kept are more likely to be watching out for their property and their neighbourhood.  The article suggests:

  • “The level of maintenance of the yard is almost like a neighborhood watch sign saying, ‘We have eyes on the street and we will say something.’”
  • “The most powerful indicators of a decrease in crime were having a lawn, the presence of garden hoses or sprinklers, shrubs, tree cover, percentage of pervious area, and the presence of yard trees.”
  • “The factors most strongly tied to more crime were the number of small street trees, litter, uncut lawn, and a dried out lawn.”

Research does indicate that residents can help reduce crime by taking care of their yards (including mowing their lawn) and being visible in their neighbourhood.

Until next time…
Debbie Sellers, ENW

Edmonton Neighbourhood Watch (ENW) is a not-for-profit, charitable, volunteer passive crime prevention organization.

A. Troy et al. / Landscape and Urban Planning 147 (2016) 78–87. The relationship between residential yard management and neighborhood crime: An analysis from Baltimore City and County. Retrieved from URL https://www.fs.fed.us/nrs/pubs/jrnl/2016/nrs_2016_troy_001.pdf

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Posted in ENW Dispatch.