A new study shows that giving city squares a makeover could offer a surprising benefit: reduced crime rates. A significant proportion of crimes are committed by adolescents, so don’t we do more to stop juvenile crime? It turns out we’re too intimidated by them to intervene when we see a crime being committed or to even report their offenses.

Researcher Jan Semenza says, “The majority of Americans live in cities, where the social cement that holds people together is declining.” He and his team compared a Portland, Oregon community that participated in a neighborhood intersection repair project to two nearby neighborhoods that did not. The project involved painting street murals, installing information kiosks, planting hanging gardens and building water fountains and benches. Besides reducing crime, the goal was to stimulation better relations between neighbors in the area.

When the authors investigated crime rates two years before and after the project, they found a 15% reduction in burglaries, assaults, vehicle thefts and robberies in the improved community, compared to the two unimproved communities nearby. Calls to the police and even graffiti significantly declined in the intervention community.

A study of young, violent criminals in New York City found that they used fear and intimidation to keep adults from interfering with their criminal activities. Almost 40% of the young offenders interviewed said that adults? fear of teens was the defining characteristic of their relations. As a result, in many situations, adults ignored criminal activity by teens and young adults.

Researcher Deanna Wilkinson says, “There are these somewhat na?ve notions that the key to reducing violence is to create these close ties with neighbors, where adults can provide informal social control over teens. That?s not going to work in neighborhoods where relations between adults and young people are governed by fear.”

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

The crimes committed by groups?especially secret groups?have always been the most dangerous, and daring, of all.

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