The effect of community gardens on numbers of property crimes in urban Houston
Gorham, Michelle Renee
Today, in many of America's major cities, communal gardening projects have not only yielded produce to their participants but also a plethora of neighborhood success stories including feelings of well-being, safety and the beautification of acres of vacant land. The purpose of this study was to determine if community gardens had an effect on the number of reported property crimes in Houston, Texas. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Houston Police Department, property crimes included burglary, theft and auto theft. Data for reported property crimes were obtained from the Houston Police Department for 2005. Property crime data were geocoded and mapped using Arc View© 9.1 GIS software. Eleven active community gardens were found using the Harris County Extension, word of mouth and the internet. Community gardens and property crimes were geocoded and mapped using Arc View© 9.1 GIS software and displayed in Google Earth® Software to look for property crime "hot spots". An eighth of a mile radius was drawn around each community garden. The number of property crimes within an eighth of a mile radius of each community garden was determined. A one mile radius surrounding the garden was also determined and five random points within this radius were created. An eighth of a mile radius was created surrounding each of the five random points and property crimes within each eighth of a mile radius surrounding the random points were tallied. In addition to the evaluation of crime data, demographic data by census block were overlayed onto the Houston city map along with the crime data and community garden data. The number of property crimes within the eighth of a mile radius surrounding all eleven community gardens and property crimes within an eighth of a mile radius surrounding all of the random areas were entered into SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences 11.0) (New Jersey) and analyzed using paired t-tests and regression analysis. Initial results of paired t-tests indicated no statistically significant differences between the mean number of crime occurrences in community garden areas and the mean number of crimes in randomly selected areas (P=0.270). Results also indicated that the presence of a community garden was not a predictor of a lower crime rate for a neighborhood (P=0.447). Adjustments were then made by removing randomly selected areas that were demographically least like their respective community gardens. Results from further analysis indicated that there were no differences between the community garden areas and the randomly selected areas. However, community garden members were interviewed either in person, via e-mail or written letter for thoughts and opinions pertinent to the presence of their particular community garden. Interview results showed that community gardens had a positive influence within their neighborhoods such as neighborhood revitalization, perceived immunity from crime and neighbors emulating gardening practices they see in the community gardens. It is recommended that further research consider numbers of crimes before versus after a community garden is implemented.
Property damage, Houston, Crime, Community gardens
Gorham, M. R. (2007). <i>The effect of community gardens on numbers of property crimes in urban Houston</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.