Nature could literally save lives.
A recent study by the University of Exeter revealed that spending two hours a week outside in nature — walking through a park, watering plants in a community garden, or simply sitting on a sun-bathed bench — can improve your health and mental well-being.
Indiana-based nonprofit Keep Indianapolis Beautiful put that methodology to the test when they sought a link between the greenspaces built throughout Indianapolis and the rate of gun violence in their community.
The term “greenspace” refers to parks, gardens, meadows, trees, or other nature-filled community spaces in an otherwise urban area.
Taking into account differences in demographics and the citywide rise in gun violence, researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health saw a 12% decrease in gun violence within a half-mile radius of community greenspaces.
The range of the study showed that KIB greenspaces reduced the incidence of an assault with a gun by 6% at minimum — and in some cases — as much as 20%.
“This study proves something we have long believed: investments in our neighborhoods — and specifically in greenspaces — can play an outsized role in making communities safer,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett told WRTV Indianapolis.
KIB President and CEO Jeremy Kranowitz celebrated the research results and said that the nonprofit is “delighted” to grow and expand more greenspaces throughout the city.
“At KIB, we believe there is immense power in coming together and making our communities cleaner, greener, and — with the numbers we see in this study — safer,” Kranowitz told WRTV. “We continue to focus efforts to improve quality of life, helping people and nature thrive.”
Several cities saw a dramatic drop in crime after investing in green spaces.
Indianapolis is one of many cities across the U.S. that have adopted “greening” efforts. In 2016, the USDA Forest Service conducted an experimental study to see if greener spaces in Youngstown, Ohio could deter crime. The five-year program saw an 85% reduction in felony assaults.
In 2018, residents in Flint, Michigan helped turn vacant lots into community gardens and saw a 40% drop in violent crime in a single year.
Laney Rupp — the center manager at the Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center — explained that abandoned buildings and crumbling infrastructure create a “negative spiral of neighborhood decline.”
“If you engage residents and improve their neighborhoods, they’ll get to know each other, they’ll build social resources. They’ll then feel like their environment is safer and more orderly. They might be more likely to go outside,” Rupp told the Capital News Service of Michigan.
For Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, creating greenspaces is just one of many methods the city has employed in the fight to reduce gun violence.
“[We’re] working every single day to tackle the menace of gun violence in Indianapolis, leveraging new technologies, recruiting more officers and advocating for changes to misguided state policy,” Mayor Joe Hogsett told WRTV. “But we won’t be satisfied until we’ve used every tool in our toolbox.”
Header image courtesy of Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center