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Keep Indianapolis Beautiful finds greenspaces are reducing violence

Study: Green spaces help reduce crime

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — For the past year, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful has been studying greenspaces and their potential impact on violence reduction. The nonprofit unveiled the results on Tuesday.

KIB looked at 68 locations — 34 improved greenspaces and 34 others that have not received attention — as part of the organization’s AES Indianapolis Project GreenSpace program, which turns vacant lots into parks, orchards, and outdoor classrooms.

The study found that within a half-mile radius of areas where KIB has worked with a community to create and beautify greenspaces, there was a 12% reduction in gun violence.

The study was funded through a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health worked with members of the KIB team to examine the transformed and untouched spaces. The study considered factors such as median household income, age demographics, transportation access, and social vulnerability.

KIB says the study found the 12% reduction in gun violence was a direct result of a joint effort between the nonprofit and community members to create usable greenspaces.

KIB and the city chose the Shelton Heights neighborhood as the place to reveal the study’s findings.

The community sits on the west side of Indianapolis and was once home to an abandoned trailer park that had been a hotbed for violence.

KIB says the city razed the property after a neighbor was killed trying to fill a community refrigerator. The organization then teamed up with the community to create a greenspace with a native prairie, a quarter-mile walking path, a permanent art installation, a shelter, and a place for kids to play.

“A neighborhood once marred by fear, where mothers refused to let their children outside to play, has now become a place for the entire community to enjoy,” Keep Indianapolis Beautiful members wrote in their findings.

Mayor Joe Hogsett was on hand to discuss the study results.

According to the city, the total number of total crimes in Indianapolis declined from approximately 50,000 in 2016 to 38,369 in 2021 — a drop of over 22%.

“Our administration is working every single day to tackle the menace of gun violence in Indianapolis, leveraging new technologies, recruiting more officers, and advocating for changes to misguided state policy,” Hogsett said. “But we won’t be satisfied until we’ve used every tool in our toolbox. This study proves something we have long believed: investments in our neighborhoods—and specifically in greenspaces—can play an outsized role in making communities safer.”

The findings may help to determine where Indianapolis chooses to create additional pocket parks in the future as a means to mitigate violent crime.

Future research will also uncover aspects of the greenspace program to determine if various elements, such as art installation, greenspace size, and resident involvement, matter more than others.

“At KIB, we believe there is immense power in coming together and making our communities cleaner, greener, and — with the numbers we see in this study — safer,” Jeremy Kranowitz, KIB President and CEO, said Tuesday “We continue to focus efforts to improve quality of life, helping people and nature thrive. We’re delighted to expand our efforts throughout the city.”

KIB says the findings can be used to impact not only Indianapolis, but communities all across the country dealing with violence.