by Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found a connection between sprucing up vacant lots and reducing crime.

Penn Epidemiologist Charles Branas looked at crime statistics before and after the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society cleared and planted thousands of vacant lots. His findings determined that neighborhoods were not only made prettier, but they had become safer.

“Gun violence went down around the areas of green vacant lots and we think that’s for a couple of reasons,” Branas said. “One, it enhanced the connectedness of the neighbors in that area around the vacant lot, but we also think that greening and cleaning a vacant lots reduced the opportunity to hide illegal guns.

Branas noted the study supports the “broken windows” theory, that a more orderly environment leads to crime reduction. The intersection of 7th Street and Germantown Avenue is an example.

“It’s more like a rural area,” said resident Charles Bland. “Because it’s pretty nice and quiet.

Bland said when he moved there, the lot next to his house was a mess.

“They would throw empty beer bottles and trash,” he said. “But once we cleaned it and maintained it, it looked like this.”

According to Branas, health issues improved, as well.

“We also found for select areas of Philadelphia that stress was reduced and that people exercised more,” he added.

Now every corner at the six-point intersection is green.