Reclaiming abandoned lots in urban neighborhoods for farming projects has steadily reduced shootings in surrounding areas.
Part of it was practical: 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." Calls from neighbors complaining of nuisance crimes—acts like loitering or public urination or excessive noise—went up significantly in the immediate vicinity of the newly greened land. At first, Branas worried the land had attracted ne'er-do-wells, but what he came to realize is that it had emboldened neighbors to call the police for minor disturbances, something they hadn't done in the past. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has begun to look at greening as a tool for violence prevention.