The Community-Building Power of Communal Gardens

Planted to solve a perceived food desert problem, urban gardens are harvesting more than just fresh, nutritious food. Neighborhoods surrounding gardens are seeing surprising declines in violent crime.
August 3, 2012, 8am PDT | Andrew Gorden
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Not only can urban gardens serve as fresh food oasis in under-served neighborhoods, Mother Jones writer Alex Kotlowitz writes on the community building abilities of these gardens. "There's been a growing body of research that suggests that urban farming and greening not only strengthen community bonds," writes Kotlowitz, "but also reduce violence."

For example, a greening of just 8 percent of Philadelphia's vacant lots has reduced gun violence in adjacent areas. "Part of it was practical:," states Kotlowitz, "The vacant lots had previously been hiding places for guns. But as Charles Branas, an epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania who released a study on the project late last year, says, 'People just became more in touch with their neighbors. People felt more connected to each other.'"

Interestingly, calls for minor crimes like loitering, public urination, and excessive noise went up significantly. Instead of bringing in troublemakers, the parks are probably encouraging nearby residents to be more vigilant in protecting their streets from all types of crime, even minor.

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Published on Thursday, August 2, 2012 in Mother Jones
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