Expert Commentary

Property values, parks and crime: An analysis of Baltimore

2008 study in Landscaping and Urban Planning on the effect of crime levels and park proximity on property values in Baltimore, Maryland.

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

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