June 15, 2015
Peel Regional Police have developed programs to encourage homeowners and gardening, such as Weed Your Neighbourhood of Criminals. The promotion recognizes that gardening and yard maintenance can play a critical role when it comes to the safety of home, and neighbourhoods.

Residents are encouraged to always make sure their lawn is adequately maintained to help establish a “lived-in” look. Peel Police suggest that residents can further discourage unwanted attention from would-be burglars by checking to see if landscaping blocks critical views of accessible doors and windows from neighbours and passers-by, then taking some action to open up blocked sightlines.

Peel Regional Police Cst. Tom McKay led a drive this spring to encourage gardeners to deter criminal activity and promote neighbourhood safety. He worked with a number of media outlets to promote the program.

McKay writes, “On a neighbourhood scale, a recent U.S. study established a positive correlation between the density of a neighbourhood’s tree canopy and the area’s crime rate. That study, by Austin Troy and Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne of the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and J. Morgan Grove of the USDA Forest Service’s Research Division, found that ‘a 10 per cent increase in tree canopy was associated with a roughly 12 per cent decrease in crime.’ This was backed up by a couple of earlier studies that found the greener a building’s surroundings were, the fewer crimes reported.”  

He suggests that trees get people outside and encourage people to sit or stroll. “People become more neighbourly or simply watch out for their community.  It is further believed that troublemakers pick up on this as they see a block lined with healthy trees as a tight-knit area where people look out for each other.  So my advice to you is to plant a tree,” says McKay.

He recommends that home owners should take fresh look at their property.  He asks, “What opportunities would a burglar see around your property?” Are critical views of your windows or doors from neighbouring properties obscured by overgrown landscaping?  Are there adult-sized hiding spots between your landscaping and accessible windows?”

He suggests home owners consider re-establishing critical sightlines by having aggressive growing plant species pruned or selectively culled in favour of more modest ones. “Nothing more than three feet in these circumstances fully grown. By doing this, you can go a long way towards keeping your grounds free of one of nature’s most invasive species — the residential burglar,” says McKay.

“Remember, the next time you admire the fruits of the garden, you might just be preventing a crime,” says McKay.