Greening vacant lots: Good for the aesthetics and the crime rate?

Aug. 8, 2012, 4:22 p.m.

Trash pile-ups are all-too-common in South L.A. alleys, and don't exactly improve the area's aesthetic. (José Martinez/OnCentral)

Making ugly vacant lots greener – and thus prettier – is not only easy on the eyes: A new study says it may also cut the surrounding area's crime rate.

The research, which appears in Injury Prevention, says that greened vacant lots may make residents feel safer, in addition to reducing certain gun and police-reported crimes.

Dr. Eugenia Garvin, the lead author, said that greening vacant lots changes the environment from one that might promote crime and fear to one that reduces crime and encourages a sense of security.

"Our theory is that transforming vacant lots from a space overgrown with vegetation and filled with trash to a clean and green space may make it difficult for people to hide illegal guns and conduct illegal activities such as drug use in or near the space," she said in a statement. "Additionally, green space may encourage community cohesion."

That's the same sort of idea behind the Avalon Green Alley Network Plan, a project of the Trust for Public Land that looks to make the alleys, sidewalks and streets of a 35-acre area in South Los Angeles more walkable, appealing, community-oriented and environmentally-sensible.

The plan is still in its early stages, and the organizers say the question of funding still looms. As for the project's neighborhood, South Park, the L.A. Times' Mapping L.A. project notes that it has the 20th-highest violent crime rate in Los Angeles County.

View Avalon Green Alley Network Plan in a larger map

The map above shows the basic layout of the Avalon Green Alley Network Plan. The black lines represent alleys that the plan is proposing to renovate; the green lines represent proposed tree plantings; the red squares represent crosswalks the plan would enhance.

With time, perhaps, the Trust for Public Land's plan to plant more vegetation in and add LED alley lights to the area's alleys will start chipping away at that.

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