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Citywide Cluster Randomized Trial to Restore Blighted Vacant Land and Its Effects on Violence, Crime, and Fear

NCJ Number
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Volume: 115 Issue: 12 Dated: 2018 Pages: 2946-51
Date Published
February 2018
6 pages

This paper presents research findings that assess the effectiveness and scalability of infrastructure intervention for violence and crime rates in urban areas by restoring abandoned or vacant zones.


Vacant and blighted urban land is a widespread and potentially risky environmental condition encountered by millions of people on a daily basis. About 15 PERCENT of the land in US cities is deemed vacant or abandoned, an area roughly the size of Switzerland. In a citywide cluster randomized controlled trial, the authors investigated the effects of standardized, reproducible interventions that restore vacant land on the commission of violence, crime, and the perceptions of fear and safety. Quantitative and ethnographic analyses were included in a mixed-methods approach to more fully test and explicate research findings. A total of 541 randomly sampled vacant lots were randomly assigned into treatment and control study arms; outcomes from police and 445 randomly sampled participants were analyzed over a 38-month study period. Participants living near treated vacant lots reported significantly reduced perceptions of crime as well as reduced safety concerns when going outside their homes, and significantly increased use of outside spaces for relaxing and socializing. Significant reductions in crime overall, along with gun violence, burglary, and nuisances were also found after the treatment of vacant lots in neighborhoods below the poverty line. Blighted and vacant urban land affects not only people’s perceptions of safety, but their actual, physical safety. Restoration of this land can be an effective and scalable infrastructure intervention for gun violence, crime, and fear in urban neighborhoods. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: February 1, 2018