Case Study

Public Safety

Here in Youngstown: Lots of Green Reduces Crime


Empty lots welcomed crime into Youngstown, Ohio. Turning those lots into green space decreased crime compared to unkempt lots, with a dramatic drop in violence.

Youngstown, OH

Warm and humid summers, cold and dry winters, mild fall and spring


1,900 inhabitants per square mile. 47% White, 45.2% African American, 0.4% Asian, 7.4% Other

A third of land in the city of Youngstown, Ohio was vacant due to decades of sweeping deindustrialization and high unemployment rates. Promise was seen in these spaces, though, and the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) launched a program called “Lots of Green” to turn them into an asset.

Since 2010, YNDC worked on fencing the vacant spaces and keeping them mowed. They reasoned that preventing the lots from becoming overgrown with weeds would avert criminals from hiding weapons and drugs on the lots, and instead welcome families into the area.

In 2011, YNDC began an initiative to allow community members to care for some of the spaces in their area themselves. The community members were given access to funding to add what they would like to the vacant spaces, from fruit and shade trees, to gardens and monuments. Formerly empty lots are now neighborhood gardens, wildflower meadows, orchards, and even a youth golf course.

The USDA Forest Service conducted a study to determine if green spaces could really deter the crime that had plagued Youngstown for so long. They found that even if the lot was just maintained by the city, crime decreased compared to the vacant, unkempt lots. There was a significant drop in violent crimes in the lots cared for by the community because it was a space where people went to enjoy the area and others’ company.Effects of Greening and Community Reuse of Vacant Lots on Crime

  • The City of Youngstown
  • USDA Forest Service
  • University of Michigan
  • The Raymond John Wean Foundation
  • Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center
Lessons Learned
  • Number of vehicle break-ins around the lots have increased due to more people using the lots. The car owners need to be more aware of their vehicles.
  • Community gardens or orchards are more successful because volunteers have to regularly be attending to the space, which keeps criminals away.
Related Resources