The Association Between Urban Tree Cover and Gun Assault: A Case-Control and Case-Crossover Study

Kondo, M. C., South, E. C., Branas, C. C., Richmond, T. S., & Wiebe, D. J. (2017). The association between urban tree cover and gun assault: a case-control and case-crossover studyAmerican journal of epidemiology186(3), 289-296.


Green space and vegetation may play a protective role against urban violence. We investigated whether being near urban tree cover during outdoor activities was related to being assaulted with a gun. We conducted geographic information systems-assisted interviews with boys and men aged 10-24 years in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, including 135 patients who had been shot with a firearm and 274 community controls, during 2008-2011. Each subject reported a step-by-step mapped account of where and with whom they traveled over a full day from waking until being assaulted or going to bed. Geocoded path points were overlaid on mapped layers representing tree locations and place-specific characteristics. Conditional logistic regressions were used to compare case subjects versus controls (case-control) and case subjects at the time of injury versus times earlier that day (case-crossover). When comparing cases at the time of assault to controls matched at the same time of day, being under tree cover was inversely associated with gunshot assault (odds ratio (OR) = 0.70, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.55, 0.88), especially in low-income areas (OR = 0.69, 95% CI: 0.54, 0.87). Case-crossover models confirmed this inverse association overall (OR = 0.55, 95% CI: 0.34, 0.89) and in low-income areas (OR = 0.54, 95% CI: 0.33, 0.88). Urban greening and tree cover may hold promise as proactive strategies to decrease urban violence.

Keywords: firearm violence; green space exposure; gun assault; urban tree canopy.