Safety and Livability
When adjacent to residential areas, green spaces have been shown to create neighborhoods with fewer violent and property crimes, according to the American Planning Association.
Time spent in natural surroundings relieves mental fatigue, which in turn relieves inattentiveness, irritability, and impulsivity, which are all recognized by psychologists as precursors to violence. Green residential spaces also are casual gathering places where neighbors form social ties that produce stronger, safer neighborhoods where neighbors tend to support and protect one another.
In fact, barren spaces are more frightening to people and are more crime prone than parks landscaped with greenery and open vistas, according to the American Planning Association.
When people feel a strong sense of community, they report improved feelings of wellbeing, safety and security. They also tend to participate more in community affairs and civic responsibility.
Although interest in how the broader built environment influences sense of community is gaining momentum, there is little empirical research on the link between sense of community and the quality of public space.
But one study investigated the relationship between four public spaces – Public Open Space (POS), community centers, schools, and shops – and sense of community in residents of new housing developments in the Perth metropolitan area of Western Australia.
It’s findings? The perceived quality of neighborhood Public Open Space and shops was significantly and positively associated with sense of community — regardless of how often people used those spaces. Researchers concluded that high quality public spaces might be important settings for enhancing the sense of community of residents within new housing developments.
Community gardens also have been shown to help decrease violence in some neighborhoods, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Through tending to one’s community garden plot, people meet and increase the pairs of eyes on the street, watching out for and reporting crime, reports Gardeners in Community Development.
Many police departments recognize community gardens as an effective community crime prevention strategy that unites neighbors. In fact, many community gardens grow into block clubs or neighborhood associations.
Gardeners also create social ties that build community identity, spirit, ownership, and stewardship. That’s because community gardens bring people together from a wide range of backgrounds bridging age, race, culture, and social class.
Community gardens also offer unique opportunities for new immigrants, who tend to be concentrated in low-income urban communities that historically have higher crime rates. Such residents can produce traditional crops otherwise unavailable locally, produce a significant amount of household food, offer a cultural exchange with other gardeners, and learn about block clubs, neighborhood groups, and other community information.