Property values, parks and crime: An analysis of Baltimore
Public parks are commonly perceived as neighborhood amenities that can have a positive impact on nearby property values. A 2001 literature review by Texas A&M University found that houses bordering parks were worth 20% more, and those within two or three blocks 10% more, compared to similar properties elsewhere. Not all parks are equal, of course, and the study did note that park “nuisances” such as noise and litter could have a negative effect on property values in some instances.
A 2008 study by the University of Vermont published in Landscaping and Urban Planning, “Property Values, Parks and Crime: A Hedonic Analysis of Baltimore, MD,” examines the effect of crime levels and park proximity on Baltimore property values. The study was based on information from the Maryland Property View database, the Parks and People Foundation, and a neighborhood crime database.
Key findings include:
- When the crime rates of parks or similar amenities are relatively low, they have a positive impact on property values. When the crime rates cross a threshold of between 406% and 484% of the national crime average, however, they begin to have a negative impact.
- Park size was unrelated to crime level, with all sizes of parks in the high, medium, and low crime categories. Parks located near water also varied widely according to crime levels, “suggesting that [water] amenities do not always yield positive impacts on property.”
- The location of high- and low-crime parks across Baltimore was found to be widely dispersed throughout the city. “Often, low-crime parks will be found very near high-crime parks without intermediate medium-crime parks in between.”
For the researchers, the study’s results suggest that planners and managers “need to consider how a park will be affected by and will affect other social dimensions of the neighborhood.” They suggest that government agencies, NGOs and community organizations “work together to develop strategies and implement plans that reduce crime and modify park management, thereby turning an existing neighborhood feature from a liability into an amenity.”
A related 2011 study, “Analysis of Health, Safety, and Greening Vacant Urban Space,” examines the impact of maintenance and care of vacant lots on safety in Philadelphia. Also of interest is a 2013 study in Psychological Science, “Would You Be Happier Living in a Greener Urban Area? A Fixed-Effects Analysis of Panel Data.” It uses data from more than 10,000 individuals to explore the relationship between urban green space, well-being and mental distress for the same people over time.
Tags: crime, conservation
Read the issue-related New York Times article titled "As Crime Falls, Central Park's Night Use Grows."
- What key insights from the news article and the study in this lesson should reporters be aware of as they cover these issues?
Read the full study titled “Property Values, Parks and Crime: A Hedonic Analysis of Baltimore, MD.”
- What are the study's key technical terms? Which ones need to be put into language a lay audience can understand?
- Do the study’s authors put the research into context and show how they are advancing the state of knowledge about the subject? If so, what did the previous research indicate?
- What is the study’s research method? If there are statistical results, how did the scholars arrive at them?
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example, are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
- How could the findings be misreported or misinterpreted by a reporter? In other words, what are the difficulties in conveying the data accurately? Give an example of a faulty headline or story lead.
Newswriting and digital reporting assignments
- Write a lead, headline or nut graph based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Compose two Twitter messages of 140 characters or fewer accurately conveying the study’s findings to a general audience. Make sure to use appropriate hashtags.
- Choose several key quotations from the study and show how they would be set up and used in a brief blog post.
- Map out the structure for a 60-second video segment about the study. What combination of study findings and visual aids could be used?
- Find pictures and graphics that might run with a story about the study. If appropriate, also find two related videos to embed in an online posting. Be sure to evaluate the credibility and appropriateness of any materials you would aggregate and repurpose.
Class discussion questions
- What is the study’s most important finding?
- Would members of the public intuitively understand the study’s findings? If not, what would be the most effective way to relate them?
- What kinds of knowledgeable sources you would interview to report the study in context?
- How could the study be “localized” and shown to have community implications?
- How might the study be explained through the stories of representative individuals? What kinds of people might a reporter feature to make such a story about the study come alive?
- What sorts of stories might be generated out of secondary information or ideas discussed in the study?