Fixing up overgrown, vacant and blighted lots in Philadelphia did more than beautify neglected areas of the city. Those improvements reduced firearm shootings ending in serious injury or death, according to new research.

“It’s not super costly. You can rely on locate local contractors and community groups to clean and green a lot. The cost of maintaining it is fairly low,” said John MacDonald, one of the authors of the new research and a professor of criminology and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.

This cleaning-and-greening strategy may have the potential to save lives.

Gun violence isn’t equally distributed across cities. Instead it’s concentrated in neighborhoods or even city blocks. In aging deindustrialized cities like Philadelphia, those are often the same city blocks that have run-down and vacant lots.

Marc Zimmerman, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health who has studied community greening in Flint, Michigan, said that while cleaning and greening might not be controversial in the gun control debate, it can spark a different controversy: fears about gentrification.

Still, he thought the benefits outweighed the costs, at least in the short term. “Living in places with violence has all kinds of negative health consequences,” he added.

MacDonald noted the limitations of the intervention. “You couldn’t green a city and just eliminate the chronic problems of gun violence that are highly concentrated in city blocks just by doing remediation to places,” he said, but added that there are other reasons, including potential health and safety benefits, for remediating vacant spaces that extend beyond gun violence.

Read the full article at the Huffington Post.