Crime is lower when cities are greener: Evidence from South Africa supports the link: South Africa’s population is urbanizing at a rapid pace. The sheer rate of change poses challenges to planning for sustainable and liveable cities. Part of what make cities work is having green spaces, such as parks, sports fields, nature trails and street trees. These provide many social, ecological and economic benefits. Research from multiple countries such as Australia, China, Finland, India, the U.S. and South Africa has shown this. Aside from looking good and providing recreation, urban green spaces improve air quality, physical and mental health, and regulate storm water flows. They counteract urban heat islands, store carbon and create jobs. Some communities nevertheless oppose urban greening efforts because they fear that green spaces and street trees provide places for criminals to hide. Such fears are not unique to South Africa and have been reported from cities in both developed and developing countries. We conducted research to complement the evidence from the global north. Our study is the first ever national level analysis of the relationship between various measures of urban greenness and three different classes of crime: property, violent and sexual crimes. Our findings, based on research in South Africa, lend further credence to calls for urban greening to be adopted as a major strategy in cities—for both environmental sustainability, as well as social sustainability. We found that greener areas had lower rates of both violent and property crimes. But there was no relationship with the rate of sexual crimes. A more mixed picture was revealed when considering tree cover specifically, where property crime was higher with more tree cover, but violent crimes were fewer.
City Bans Boulevard Garden
‘I question the logic’: City tells longtime homeowner to replace part of front garden with grass: Georgina King rebuilt her front garden as a retirement project, replacing grass with artfully arranged plants, bushes and stone walkways. That was 17 years ago and King, now 78, says she loves it.
Earlier this year, King received a notice of bylaw violation from the city telling her to “reinstate the city boulevard to its original state.” That means replacing the chunk of her front garden that the city owns as a right of way with grass, says King’s granddaughter, Ashley Wilson. If King doesn’t comply, the city could re-sod it and charge her for the work.
King says the notice of violation has caused her “much stress and sleeplessness” and her efforts to appeal the notice have gone unanswered by the city. “I question the logic of a bylaw that favours outdated grass lawns over environmentally friendly and water-conservative options,” she wrote in a letter to the city that she says has gone unanswered.
[Editor’s note: in May 2022, the city Transportation Committee approved a motion that could facilitate sustainable community gardening in the City-owned portion of front yards. The motion supports a comprehensive review of by-laws that eventually could support the development of gardening and naturalization in the City-owned right-of-way by local residents and community groups. Your editor is part of a small committee of the Ottawa Horticultural Society that is working with city staff to establish guidelines for implementing the proposed bylaw change.]
Vandals Attack Trees
Vandals Attack Trees in Public Garden: I was horrified by the news. I’m a great fan of the Halifax Public Gardens, an extraordinary public park and garden that I visit every time I’m in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada’s east coast metropolis. And much of its charm come from the extraordinary trees that decorate it.
Well, vandals broke into the Gardens on the night of July 25 and 26, 2022 and tried to kill 30 historic trees, ranging in age from 50 to 200 years old. The first report I heard was on CBC radio and it just mentioned “damage.” So I thought, “a few branches broken off, maybe some bark peeled off. Most trees can handle that. It won’t be that bad.” Then I heard the word “girdled” and my blood ran cold.
Girdling, also called ring-barking, involves is the complete removal of a ring of bark all around the trunk. With the bark gone, no more carbohydrates will be able to flow down to reach the roots. The police presume that there was more than one person involved. Currently, four trees deemed unrecoverable have been removed. In other cases, there’s hope; enough bark left intact for the trees to survive. So, the authorities have only cleaned the wound and don’t plan to carry out any further interventions. But the majority will undergo bridge grafting later this summer.
Whatever decisions are made, dealing with this disaster will cost the Halifax Regional Municipality hundreds of thousands of dollars. Already, security cameras have been installed throughout the park and there will be 24-hour tree monitoring. The park also intends to plant substitutes for certain doomed trees.