Crime-fighting is expensive. Cops aren’t cheap and neither are prosecutors, judges, and all the other layers that make up the justice system. But trees and some grass? They’re a comparative bargain, and now the federal government wants to know whether they’re also an effective crime-fighting tool.

Under a $6 million federal grant, public health and criminology experts from three major universities are conducting a series of experiments that will turn vacant lots into oases of green in three troubled cities. Although the concept of clearing away blight to hinder crime has long been popular, the current research is intended to generate statistical evidence to more clearly link the correlation.  

Marc Zimmerman, a professor of psychology and public health at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, who is leading the study, thinks it’s worth exploring the power of the plant. “If you live in a bad neighborhood and you plant some trees and do some community revitalization, do you think it will make a difference?” Zimmerman asked. “A lot of skeptics will say ‘well, duh! Of course it does.’ And others might say, ‘huh? How can that make a difference?’ But we don’t really know. It hasn’t been adequately tested it.”

Zimmerman, who is also director of the public-health school’s youth violence center, is overseeing the five-year grant, which comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He is working with researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University who will focus on greening projects in Flint, Mich., Youngstown, Ohio, and Camden, N.J.

Read the full article "How Trees Could Help Stop Crime" at The Huffington Post.