The most powerful indicators of a decrease in crime were having a lawn, the presence of garden hoses or sprinklers, shrubs, tree cover, percentage of pervious area, and the presence of yard trees. The factors most strongly tied to more crime were the number of small street trees, litter, uncut lawn, and a dried out lawn.That's not immediately obvious, as those outward signs of prosperity might also be shouting STATE OF THE ART ELECTRONICS or UPSCALE JEWELRY or RIDING MOWER inside. And a lot of that lawn maintenance gets contracted out, thanks to the Say Aggregation Principle and two income households. But the author of the research isn't crediting frequent police patrols or expenditures on burglary alert services.
It’s hard not to see the income-related implications of this: If you can afford to live in a leafy neighborhood and maintain a lawn with plentiful bushes and trees, chances are you’re in a safer place than if you live in a trash-strewn block with a dried up, unmowed yard and a bunch of weed trees left unattended along the roadside.
But there’s more to it than that, says author Morgan Grove, who’s also a researcher with the Forest Service. Criminals tend to look for spaces where they can operate without being seen, or where if they’re seen they won’t be reported.So mote it be.
“The level of maintenance of the yard is almost like a neighborhood watch sign saying, ‘We have eyes on the street and we will say something,’” Grove says. “There’s a physical fact, which is that people can see criminals, but also this symbolic meaning that reinforces the social order that people will act upon their own behalf and on behalf of others.”