Date Last Edited: 08/24/2001
Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service
Study Suggests Urban Trees Help Curb Domestic Violence
Environmental concerns have long been invoked as reasons for planting trees and other flora in cities and urban areas. There's little doubt that urban trees, which screen noise and promote cooler, cleaner air, help maintain an overall better environment in city settings. But trees can also mitigate social and domestic violence in urban areas, according to a recent study by the University of Illinois, Chicago.
Drs. William Sullivan and Frances Kuo conducted the study at public housing projects in Chicago, according to Arbor Day magazine. They interviewed residents in buildings nearly identical except in one aspec--some were surrounded by trees, gardens, and plants, while others were surrounded mostly by concrete and buildings. The researchers found significant psychological differences between residents of 'green' and 'nongreen' housing projects. In general, people living near trees and "accessible nature" reported stronger family ties and better relations with neighbors than those living near or in less-green areas. In addition, residents living near trees said they felt safer and liked living in the apartments more than others in the study group. And researchers say residents near nature are less violent; they're more likely to overcome conflicts with children and spouses through reason and discussion.
Kuo and Sullivan theorize that trees and greenery provide residents with an environment that strengthens interpersonal relationships, thus giving them a support network of friends and reduced stress. They also believe those in nongreen areas suffer "mental fatigue," a negative reaction to the surrounding poverty and difficult lifestyle. Trees likely help reduce the atmosphere contributing to mental fatigue. In so doing, trees help residents become more optimistic about the future, less irritable, and more likely to solve problems creatively and to try to work themselves out of poverty. According to Arbor Day, more research is planned to test the results of the study.
Effective Graffiti Deterrent Identified by Horticulturist
According to Ted Stamen, an urban horticulturist with the University of California Cooperative Extension Service in Riverside, landscaped areas tend to be relatively graffiti free, while long, unlandscaped, block walls are inviting targets. Stamen and volunteers recently completed an informal study that overwhelmingly confirmed these casual observations.
The two-day study examined 31 sites distributed evenly throughout Riverside, CA. Approximately 90 percent of landscaped areas were graffiti-free. The same portion of nonlandscaped areas had graffiti.
"If there were vertical trees, there wasn't graffiti. If there was heavy ground cover, there wasn't graffiti," Stamen said. "The pattern was consistent across the city. Even in areas with weeds alone, inviting graffiti targets were relatively free of taggers' marks.?"
"If you're a tagger, you want your work to be seen. People who do this type of thing want exposure, so if a tree blocks the view, they don't want to do it there," Stamen said.
From the study, Stamen concludes that landscaping would be an effective deterrent to graffiti.
He acknowledges it is not an inexpensive solution, but argues that the one-time cost of planting trees, shrubs, vines, and ground covers would be less expensive and less time-consuming than repeatedly painting over graffiti. "It would be cheaper in the long run to landscape graffiti-prone areas than to remove graffiti," he said.
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