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  • Chicago Lights Urban Farm on Chicago Avenue

Does Chicago need more blue-and-whites, or does it need to be greener?

Some neighborhoods could use more of both—more cops, that is, as well as a greener environment. Since the former is discussed often, let’s talk about the latter.

Greening a city can lower its crime rate, research increasingly suggests, and can make poor, segregated areas not only safer but generally more livable.

It’s long been assumed that vegetation abetted crime in urban areas, because it makes it easier for offenders to hide and escape. But a study in the November-December issue of the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, focusing on the relationship between trees and crime in Philadelphia, found that the more vegetation in an area, the lower the rate of aggravated assaults, robberies, and burglaries. It wasn’t merely because wealthier areas have more trees; the researchers controlled for poverty and the educational attainment of residents.

This followed a study in the same journal in June that looked at Baltimore, and found a “strong inverse relationship” between tree canopy and robbery, burglary, theft, and shooting. An increase of 10 percent in tree canopy was associated with at least a 12 percent decrease in crime. The researchers controlled for income, race, and other socioeconomic factors.