According to a new study released by the U.S. Forest Service, a vital method of protecting your home — and everything in it — may not involve the installation of expensive alarm systems and surveillance cameras. Nor does it involve menacing dogs, threatening signage, or asking Buddy, your retired neighbor with entirely too much time on his hands, to keep an “eye out” while you’re away.

Apparently, large trees, yep, large trees — I'm not entirely sure what qualifies a tree as being "large" versus small or medium — that are planted in both the yards of single-family homes and on neighborhood streets can help keep “shady” business at a minimum and lower both violent and property crime rates. Who know? I always thought it worked the other way around.

Explains the study's co-author, Geoffrey Donovan, in a release issued by the Pacific Northwest Research Station:

We believe that large street trees can reduce crime by signaling to a potential criminal that a neighborhood is better cared for and, therefore, a criminal is more likely to be caught. Large yard trees also were associated with lower crime rates, most likely because they are less view-obstructing than smaller trees.
So what about those view-obstructing small yard trees? According to the study, they can actually increase crime unless homeowners keep them properly pruned and place them in areas that don’t provide convenient “cover” for unsavory types that may be lurking around your property.

 “We wanted to find out whether trees, which provide a range of other benefits, could improve quality of life in Portland by reducing crime, and it was exciting to see that they did,” says Donovan of the two-year study which compared crimes like vandalism and burglary at 2,813 single-family homes in leafy Portland, Oregon with the number and size of trees in yards and in surrounding areas. Landscaping factors were also taken into consideration. “Although a burglar alarm may deter criminals, it won’t provide shade on a hot summer day, and it certainly isn’t as nice to look at as a tree.”

An abstract of the study can be viewed online and will be printed in full in an upcoming edition of the print journal Environment and Behavior. Donovan and his partner Jeffrey Prestemon plan on possibly conducting similar research in other cities.

Very interesting. It's like The Arbor Day Foundation and Safe Streets went out and had a love child. Homeowners with trees: Does the study resonate with you at all? Have you experienced this tree/crime phenomenon firsthand? 

Via [USATODAY], [Discovery News]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

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