Community Greening, Fear of Crime, and Mental Health Outcomes

Burt CJ, Kondo MC, Hohl BC, Gong CH, Bushman G, Wixom C, South EC, Cunningham RM, Carter PM, Branas CC, Zimmerman MA. Community Greening, Fear of Crime, and Mental Health OutcomesAm J Community Psychol. 2022;69(1-2):46-58. doi:10.1002/ajcp.12544.


Unmaintained vacant land in urban areas is associated with a number of negative outcomes for residents of urban areas, including mental and physical health, safety, and quality of life. Community programs which promote land parcel maintenance in urban neighborhoods have been found to reverse some of the effects that unmaintained land has on nearby residents. We explored how land parcel maintenance is associated with mental health outcomes using data collected in Flint, MI in 2017-2018. Trained observers assessed the maintenance of approximately 7200 land parcels and surveyed 691 residents (57% Female, 53% Black, M age = 51). We aggregated resident and parcel rating data to 463 street segments and compared three structural equation models (SEM) to estimate the mediating effects of fear of crime on the association of parcel qualities on mental distress for residents. We found that fear of crime mediated the association between parcel maintenance values and mental distress indicating that poor maintenance predicted more fear of crime which was associated with mental distress. Our findings add to our understanding about the mechanism by which vacant lot improvements may operate to enhance psychological well-being of residents who live on streets with vacant and unkept lots.

Keywords: Community greening, fear of crime, mental health, urban health, vacancy