Dissertation

The project for my dissertation looked at the relationship between urban greenspaces and crime. There has been a growing interest in how urban greenspace impacts people and cities, from public health to social behavior. I investigated this topic through mapping and statistical tools to help measure if the relationship exists with crime.

Greenspaces can include parks, gardens, forests, road medians, or any other green vegetation in the city. It is thought that these places help improve the quality of life for residents. Over time people have believed that shrubs and plants could provide hiding places for criminals, but more research has shown many benefits from trees and natural places in cities.

Some coverage of the issue can be found at these sites:

https://www.citylab.com/solutions/2016/04/vacant-lots-green-space-crime-research-statistics/476040/

http://newsstand.clemson.edu/clemson-research-suggests-parks-and-green-spaces-can-reduce-crime/

Questions

As part of my research I specifically looked at these questions

Methods

The first part of my work examined how greenspaces and crime might be related across a number of different cities. I will be investigating cities with populations over 100,000 (300 in total). Measuring greenspace with satellite images, I looked to see if crime and vegetation were related and how that relationship varied between cities. Differing temperatures and precipitation can have a big impact on how much greenspace a city has, so I included these in my analysis.

Work has shown that temperatures have an impact on the amount of violent crime, with more crime in high temperatures. Since greenspaces can help cool neighborhoods, the second part of my research looked at the interactions between temperatures, greenspace, and crime. I measured the local weather through combining temperature with humidity, wind, and sun. This better represents how we feel local weather conditions. This part of the project investigated both greenspaces and urban parks specifically.

In the final part I zoomed in to a few cities to see how parks relate to specific crime locations. This chapter looked at how being closer to or farther from parks influenced the amount of crime.

This research involved a large amount of data from satellites, the US Census, and weather stations. I hope that it paints a more complete picture of how parks and greenspaces relate to crime and to the city. Through a better understanding of the role that green and natural places play, we can aim to create cities that contribute to the overall well-being of residents.

map of vegetation
Satellite image of vegetation