New research suggests that a person’s access to nature can affect their likelihood of committing a crime.
The Twin Cities are a large metropolis, but city developers did a great job ensuring that nature still has home inside the city limits. From the gorgeous Mississippi River to the hundreds of parks sprinkled across the Twin Cities, it seems like you’re never that far away from nature even in the big city, and researchers say that access to wildlife can help reduce crime.
For the recent study, researchers decided to measure the relationship between individual and community access to nature and crime rates in the area. To do this, researchers asked a group of 2,000 people from a variety of areas to assess their access to nature, the amount of time they spent in nature, and how much nature they can see from their homes. The responses were then cross-examined with neighborhood and community crime statistics.
Nature and Crime Study Results
After looking at the data, researchers noticed that contact and time spent in nature had a significant effect on reducing crime and violence. After controlling for socioeconomic deprivation, population density and unemployment, researchers uncovered:
- The amount of accessible green spaces or farmlands in a community accounted for a 4 percent variability in crime rates.
- Socioeconomic deprivation accounted for a 5 percent of crime rate variability, meaning a person’s access to nature is nearly as big a factor of predicting crime likelihood as their socioeconomic status.
- Exposure to nature accounted for a full 8 percent variance in community cohesion.
Dr. Netta Weinstein, who co-authored the study, said they didn’t know exactly why access to nature helped reduce crime rates, but they had some educated guesses.
“It might be that green space encourages people to band together and support their communities in ways that discourages local crime,” said Dr. Weinstein. She added that access to nature offers some psychological benefits, like lowered stress levels, reduced depression and anxiety, and calming effects in the brain, which all might help turn people off of violent tendencies.
Dr. Weinstein and colleagues concluded that city planners should take the findings into consideration for the happiness and well-being of individuals in the community.
“It’s important for people to have natural spaces available to them.”