AN INDEPENDENT PROGRAM OF TOWER HILL BOTANIC GARDEN
Trees Benefit Cities
Community Building and Safety
By Emily Perry, 2017 The value of trees to cities is truly infinite, and to the surprise of many, it extends to the safety, wellbeing, and happiness of urban residents. When determining the true worth of an urban forest, we must include the capacity for trees to strengthen and develop community and also promote safer streets and neighborhoods. Perhaps this is something you have experienced in your own life; picture driving down an avenue shaded by old oaks, leaves rustling in the breeze, shading your way. Looking up, you glimpse a dozen or more tints of green as sunlight shines through the canopy. It is remarkable how quickly one is swept up and engaged in this sensual experience; a glimpse of a lush, verdant landscape, the fragrant smells of the natural world. And you aren’t alone, this experience can be had by every person walking or driving down this road.
This immersion in the natural world bring us all a sort of serenity that translates to better, safer communities. Let’s look to some of the research in this area to better illustrate what we know about how this works. The USDA has found that trees and parks in a neighborhood or district can promote greater pedestrian activity and lead to more casual interactions. Trees also shade the sidewalk, making summertime excursions pleasant and comfortable. Additionally, they add visual interest and aesthetic appeal to any walk, run, or biking experience. And in yet another finding, in buildings with trees in their community gardens, people-report significantly better relations with their neighbors. Residents report a stronger feeling of unity with their neighbors; they like where they are living more and they feel safer than residents who have few trees around them. The Journal of Arboriculture found that people like trees because they often feel calmer in their presence, and they even describe feeling an increase in quality of life.
Beyond this, having trees in neighborhoods has been correlated with lower crime rates. For example, the journal on Environment and Behavior published an article that looked into aggression and violence in cities, finding that and public housing residents who lived in areas with trees and natural landscapes reported 25% fewer acts of domestic aggression and violence. For example, in Chicago public housing developments it was discovered that the presence of trees lowered “mental fatigue,” and with that, lowered numerous manifestations of aggressive and harmful actions. In addition, crime-reduction benefits were found in the city of Baltimore, Maryland. An extensive study published in the journal of Landscape and Urban Planning found that with a 10% increase in tree cover, there was a 11.8% decrease in crime rate. 
Urban forests also correlate with cleaner cities and greater safety in high-traffic areas. For example. A study of a Chicago Public Housing development also found that there is less graffiti, vandalism, and littering in outdoor spaces with natural landscapes than similar spaces with less greenery. Trees also create space that separates the sidewalk from the road and makes pedestrians feel safer. Moreover, trees along a street tend to make drivers drive more slowly which also lends itself to pedestrian safety.
It is amazing, the way that trees can create a positive feedback loop. They can increase safety and promote comfort and neighborliness in numerous ways which then leads to greater feelings of safety, comfort, and neighborliness. There is no doubt that our well forested neighborhoods are experiencing these benefits, and they will only increase as we work to actively maintain and expand our urban forest. Our desire at Worcester Tree Initiative is to help grow trees all across the city so everyone can enjoy the positive impacts that they bring.
 Sullivan, W.C. and K.E. Kuo. “Do trees strengthen urban communities, reduce domestic violence?” Forestry Report R8-FR 56 USDA Forest Service/Southern Region. (1996). Web.  Lohr, V., C. Pearson-Mims, J. Tarnai, and D. Dillman. “How urban residents rate and rank the benefits and problems associated with trees in cities.” Journal of Arboriculture 30.1(2004):28-35. Web.  Kuo, F.E., and W.C. Sullivan. 2001. “Aggression and Violence in the Inner City: Effects of Environment Via Mental Fatigue”. Environment and Behavior 33.4 (2001): 543-571. Web.
 Kuo, F.E., and W.C. Sullivan. 2001. “Aggression and Violence in the Inner City: Effects of Environment Via Mental Fatigue”. Environment and Behavior 33.4 (2001): 543-571. Web.
 Troy, A., M. Grove, and J. O’Neil-Dunne. “The relationship between tree canopy and crime rates across an urban–rural gradient in the greater Baltimore region.” Landscape and Urban Planning 106 (2012) 262–270. Web.
 Brunson, L. “Resident Appropriation of Defensible Space in Public Housing: Implications for Safety and Community.” Doctoral Dissertation, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, IL.  Naderi, Jody R., Byoung S. Kweon, and Praveen Maghelal. "The Street Effect and Driver Safety." ITE Journal on the Web (2008). Web.