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Reducing Crime by Remediating Vacant Lots: The Moderating Effect of Nearby Land Uses

NCJ Number
Journal of Experimental Criminology Volume: 18 Dated: 2022 Pages: 639-664
Date Published
26 pages

The authors present the methodology and results of a study designed to determine the impact on crime rates of a citywide vacant lot greening program in Philadelphia; they also discuss policy implications and make suggestions for future research.


Place-based blight remediation programs have gained popularity in recent years as a crime reduction approach. This study estimated the impact of a citywide vacant lot greening program in Philadelphia on changes in crime over multiple years, and whether the effects were moderated by nearby land uses. The vacant lot greening program was assessed using quasi-experimental and experimental designs. The authors used entropy distance weighting was the quasi-experimental analysis to match control lots to be comparable to greened lots on pre-existing crime trends. Fixed-effects difference-in-differences models were used to estimate the impact of the vacant lot greening program in quasi-experimental and experimental analyses. The authors estimated that vacant lot greening would reduce total crime and multiple subcategories in both the quasi-experimental and experimental evaluations. Remediating vacant lots had a smaller effect on reducing crime when they were located near train stations and alcohol outlets. The crime reductions from vacant lot remediations were larger when they were located near areas of active businesses. There is some suggestive evidence that the effects of vacant lot greening are larger when located in neighborhoods with higher pre-intervention levels of social cohesion. The findings suggest that vacant lot greening provides a sustainable approach to reducing crime in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and the effects may vary by different surrounding land uses. To better understand the mechanisms through which place-based blight remediation interventions reduce crime, future research should measure human activities and neighborly socialization in and around places before and after remediation efforts are implemented. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2022