Does urban tree cover play a role in reducing violence in cities?
Urban trees and forests provide a host of benefits for communities including cooling, wildlife habitat, and beauty. Another benefit that may not immediately come to mind is the role of urban forests in reducing violence. A Forest Service scientist and her partners investigated whether being near urban tree cover during outdoor activities related to being assaulted with a gun. The scientists conducted interviews with 10- to 24-year-old males in Philadelphia, Penn., speaking to 135 people who had been shot with a firearm and 274 people who had not been shot. Each person interviewed was asked to provide a step-by-step mapped account of where and with whom they travelled over a full day from waking until being assaulted or going to bed. Scientists then laid maps of tree locations and place-specific characteristics over the step-by-step maps. Research results indicate that the likelihood of being assaulted was lower when people were under tree cover as opposed to when they were out in the open. At the time people were assaulted, they were 30 percent less likely to be under tree cover as compared to people who were not shot. These findings indicate that urban greening and tree cover may hold promise as proactive strategies to decrease urban violence.