Tim EntwisleCrims don’t like a neatly trimmed hedge

Received wisdom (i.e. knowledge often of the most unreliable kind) is that thickets of plants provide good places for criminals to dwell and hone their craft. Well, it turns out, in Philadelphia at least, that vegetation, well maintained, can lower crime rates. Aggravated assault, robbery and burglary all drop when you clip your hedge. But first you have to grow a hedge.

Neatly trimmed hedge in Madrid, Spain

Neatly trimmed hedge in Madrid, Spain

A study out of Temple University, in Philadelphia PA, found that ‘the presence of grass, trees and shrubs is associated with lower crime rates’.

Jeremy Mennis and Mary Wolfe used satellite imagery and crime statistics – after discounting the effects of poverty, education levels and population density – to come to this conclusion. Their results are published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning but unless you want to pay $42 you’ll have to, like me, get the gist of the study from their media release on Eurekalert!.

Powis castle, Wales

Powis castle, Wales

Sissinghurst, UK

Sissinghurst, UK

Mennis and Wolfe argue that ‘well maintained greenery’ is good for social interaction and what they call ‘community supervision’ (which I assume is like Neighbourhood Watch). It also calms us down, they say. Calm people, it seems, are less likely to commit crimes.

They add that vegetation also reduces stormwater run-off and improves the quality of our lives in other ways so this crime reduction is an added bonus.

They don’t, at least in the press release or abstract, explain why the vegetation has to be well-maintained and what that really means.

Versailles, France

Versailles, France

However they do confess that theft doesn’t go down in vegetated areas. Presumably thieving criminals still find a dense thicket of plants a useful cover.

So for a safer city, but possibly fewer personal belongings, we should fill our cities with neatly pruned plants like these.

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Tim Entwisle

About Tim Entwisle

Dr Tim Entwisle is a scientist and scientific communicator with a broad interest in plants, science and gardens, and Director & Chief Executive of Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. Previously he was Director of Conservation, Living Collections & Estates at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and prior to that, Director of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens for eight years. Read Tim's full blog at Talking Plants

6 thoughts on “Crims don’t like a neatly trimmed hedge

  1. Thanks for that link Helen! I’m now a friend and and a fan… Great stuff.

  2. Phileppa on said:

    Finding the picture of Powis Castle, Wales to be truly odd I checked it out on Google. I selected the third item, ‘Powis Castle, Wales’ and what a stunning excursion! There are many photos and an excellent history of this 700 year old, initially military stronghold and continuously inhabited castle; a rare survivor. Do check it out!

    • Definitely worth a visit – stunning setting and quirky garden…. Tim

  3. Or ……………… crims could slip in the back door while the home/ garden owner is busily ( and noisily) distracted with trimming ….

    • True! I expect the owner wouldn’t mind as long as their handiwork remained intact… Tim

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