November 2nd, 2010
12:24 PM ET

Bark takes a bite out of crime

A study found that neighborhoods with large trees have less crime than those with small trees.

Plant a tree and stop crime? Depends on the size of the tree.

That's what a study from researchers with the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Northwest and Southern Research Stations has found.

The study, being published in the journal Environment and Behavior, found that large trees tend to keep criminals out of residential properties while crime was higher on properties with smaller trees.

The researchers looked at a sample of more than 2,800 homes in the Portland, Oregon, area and associated crime data from 2005 to 2007. There were 394 property and 37 violent crimes at those 2,813 single-family homes during that time period.

Researchers then looked at aerial photos and ground surveys to gauge the number and size of trees associated with the properties.

"We believe that large street trees can reduce crime by signaling to a potential criminal that a neighborhood is better cared for and, therefore, a criminal is more likely to be caught," lead researcher Geoffrey Donovan said in a statement. "Large yard trees also were associated with lower crime rates, most likely because they are less view-obstructing than smaller trees."

The researchers suggested homeowners keep smaller trees carefully trimmed to provide less cover for criminals.

"It was exciting to see that they did," said Donovan, who worked on the study with Jeffrey Prestemon.

And trees bring something else, too, he said. "Although a burglar alarm may deter criminals, it won't provide shade on a hot summer day, and it certainly isn't as nice to look at as a tree."

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Filed under: Crime • U.S.
soundoff (69 Responses)
  1. merle

    so big trees? more likly to fall due to disease high winds or lightning strikes. where are those stats? how many homes are damaged by large trees vs small?

    November 3, 2010 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
  2. phil

    Stupid. Crime-ridden inner cities have very few trees, while suburban neighborhoods and smaller towns have many trees. The trees have nothing to do with crime.

    November 3, 2010 at 6:05 am | Report abuse |
  3. MarcusC

    What a waste of a study. Maybe the fact that neighborhoods with large trees are older, have a higher home value, have families that have been there longer, there are dozens of reasons I can think of that really have nothing to do with the size of the trees.

    November 3, 2010 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  4. gary

    Big trees are in established neighborhhods. People know eachother and watch out for eachother. Small trees are in new neighbordoods where the people are more transient. They come and go and nobody thinks twice about a stranger walking down the block. Take the study and add Neighborhood age to the mix and i think you will come up with less crime in older more mature naighborhood.

    November 3, 2010 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  5. rattler

    So, essentially what you are saying is that there is no crime in the desert. I doubt it.

    November 3, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  6. Mohareb

    Let's not forget that correlation is not causation... I doubt that big trees cause a drop in crime. More likely that some of the same factors that lead to big trees also lead to less crime. For example, homes with larger trees may tend to be owned by a different demographic, such as older people. Neighborhoods with older populations probably have lower crime, because most crime is commited by young men.

    November 3, 2010 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jason

    Hey Jimby. If no money was spent on this study then I have to question how thorough the study is. I doubt that a study of big trees in the midwest would support these conclusions.

    November 3, 2010 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  8. LDD

    Gee, could it just be that properties with smaller trees are in more recently developed areas? Properties with larger trees would be in older neighborhoods. While more recently developed neighborhoods would be less likely to have a) established alarm systems, b) Neighborhood watch programs, c) Newer property to be stolen and pawned, and d) Neighbors less likely to differentiate between the thief's car and the "new" owner's car.

    November 3, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. flyonthewall

    I truly hope that NONE of my tax dollars went towards this "study". Man they can think of more junk to spend money on........

    November 3, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. marie

    I have to laugh...people getting so bent out of shape about the sizes of trees and a stupid study

    November 3, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. American

    I am just glad to see our tax dollars so hard at work, Bravo!

    November 3, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
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