YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Keeping a child safe may be the responsibility of the entire community.
New research suggests that improving a community’s aesthetics could lead to a decrease in crime, according to a study published Monday by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, which found links between environmental elements and adolescent homicide rates.
Researchers studied 143 homicide cases involving adolescents ages 13 to 20 in Philadelphia between 2010 and 2012. They found that the presence of streetlights, illuminated crosswalk signs and public transportation were tied to a lower risk of teen homicide.
On the other hand, sites that had stop signs and security bars on homes showed a higher risk.
In addition, one study in Youngstown found that cleaning up vacant lots or converting them into community gardens was associated with drops in burglaries and assaults in the area.
Youngstown State University Criminal Justice Professor Dr. Richard Rogers has examined the studies, and he said there is a correlation to environmental factors and crimes.
“We’re actually going through all of that data, and what you’re generally saying is true. That bad crimes tend to concentrate in bad areas,” he said.
In 2015, 33 News reported on 26 incidents that police investigated as homicides. The first murder victim of 2016 was just 22 years old.
Dr. Rogers said within Youngstown, there are specific locations where violent activity is particularly high.
Although he believes there is a tie between the neighborhood elements and homicides, he doesn’t think it’s the only cause.
“We know that those relationships that exist are sometimes effective, but you can also point to places where they’re not effective,” he said.
Natalia Pane is the senior vice president for research and operations at Child Trends, a nonprofit research organization focused exclusively on improving the lives of children and their families. She said JAMA’s study is particularly interesting because of its impact with teenagers.
“A big factor that we know about in teen brains is they do not estimate risk well,” she said.
Although she believes there is definitely a need to do more intervention studies to test teenagers, she feels this is a good start.
“Having a light that’s out, it might be just enough to swing that teen’s decision-making in that moment,” she said.