Maps, Data & Profiles

Crime and Canopy Cover in Syracuse, NY (Robbery and Aggravated Assault)

Posted: September 13, 2013    /   Created: May 24, 2013

Crime data were downloaded from the Syracuse Police department’s neighborhood crime reports; website: To obtain the 2012 crime incidence totals for every neighborhood, crimes reported each quarter were manually entered into Excel and then summed for the year. The reported locations of crimes were geocoded using ArcGIS to create maps showing comparisons of (1) aggravated assault with tree canopy cover and (2) robberies with tree canopy cover. Kim Fisher (2013) found that “the presence of grass, trees and shrubs is associated with lower crime rates in Philadelphia, particularly for robberies and assaults.” The primary limit of the crime dataset, as with all crime data, is that it contains only reported crimes. Some crimes go unreported to the police. The Federal Bureau’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) Program, responsible for constructing comprehensive crime reports compiled from police agencies throughout the country, asserts that approximately two-thirds of crimes go unreported (Uniform Crime Reports, 2013). Furthermore, certain communities may be more likely than others to report crimes. If such a scenario is true locally, the data and analysis would be skewed. In addition, some studies concluded that vegetation and trees increase crime due to people using them for cover to hide before and after committing a crime. Despite these findings, the literature overwhelming supports more tree planting in high crime areas.


The neighborhoods that have the highest reported incidence of aggravated assault, indicated by the darker shades of color, include the Northside with 136 reported incidents, the Near Westside with 120 incidents, the Southside with 119 incidents, and Brighton with 96 incidents of aggravated assault. The map shows a heavy concentration of aggravated assault directly to the west of I-81 and north of where I-81 intersects I-690. The neighborhoods that have the highest reported incidence of aggravated assault remain the same: the Northside with 95 incidents, the Near Westside with 51
incidents, the Southside with 37 incidents, and Brighton with 39 incidences of robberies. The neighborhoods that have the highest reported incidence of aggravated assault and robbery are potential areas to introduce and continue tree planting, as research suggests that tree canopy cover may play a role in reducing these types of crimes. Studies have found some association between crime reduction and tree canopy cover—though clearly not causation (Troy, Grove, & O’Neil-Dunne, 2012; Wolfe & Mennis, 2012). Furthermore, Wolfe and Mennis (2012) conclude by saying that tree planting and vegetation, “[have] implications for urban planning policy, especially as cities are moving toward ‘green’ growth plans and must look to incorporate sustainable methods of crime prevention into city planning (112).”

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