Can trees fight crime? Alief leaders hope they will with project that aims to plant 1,200 new ones

Courtney Carpenter Image
Friday, April 21, 2023
Alief officials to plant 1,200 new trees in effort to prevent crime
Alief is throwing shade at crime... literally. City leaders hope beautifying the neighborhood will help deter crime based on the "broken window theory."

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Alief is throwing shade at crime in hopes that planting new trees will help protect the neighborhood.

The Alief area will soon be home to 1,200 new trees, and those planting them say the trees will not only beautify the streets, but help protect them as well.

You may be wondering, how can trees help prevent crime?

A study published in the Journal of Public Economics found that when temperatures go up, crime does, too.

According to Harris County Precinct 4, Alief averages 10 degrees hotter in the summer months than well-shaded areas of Houston. Alief has only an 11% tree canopy, compared to the Houston average of 33%.

Longtime Alief resident and president of Clayton Homes HOA, Terry Jones, says she thinks more shade in the area will be a big help.

"If we can cool things off, give people something to do that's outside that's going to engage them. The commissioner has so many projects that are in the works. There's going to be public art. We're improving the parks," Jones said.

But it isn't just the heat. The president of Alief's Super Neighborhood council told ABC13 she thinks the trees will help with "the broken window theory."

In criminology, the theory states that visible signs of crime and disorder encourage further crime and disorder.

"If the place looks ugly and barren and it looks like nobody cares for it, nobody will care for it," Barbara Quattro said. "I think that encourages crime. It encourages vandalism. Trees are a win-win for everybody. They not only look good, but they make the place look good, and people respect it more."

Starting late this year, 1,200 trees will be planted along 17 miles of road in the Alief area. Harris County Precinct 4 is using $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to make the project happen.

Local leaders said the first trees will be planted in late winter of this year and early next year -- mostly in the medians or near sidewalks.

All 1,200 trees should be planted by 2025.

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