Alief, a working-class suburb in Houston, Texas, will plant over 1,000 new trees to fight crime. The project comes as Houston’s violent crime rate is one of the highest in the U.S.
Houston is safer than just 2% of neighborhoods in the U.S., having nearly a 55% crime rate per 1,000 residents. Alief has close to a 130% property crime score, which is approximately 29% higher than the national average.
ABC13 Houston reported that Alief will plant the trees in “hopes of protecting” the neighborhood, and those doing the planting argue the trees won’t just beautify the suburb but also offer protection. The outlet cited a study by the Journal of Public Economics which found that as outside temperatures increase, so does crime.
According to Harris County Precinct 4, Alief averages 10 degrees hotter in the summer than some Houston areas while only having an 11% tree cover, compared to Houston’s average of 33%.
Terry Jones, a resident of Alief and president of the Clayton Homes Home Owners Association, told ABC13 Houston that she believes planting more trees will “be a big help.”
“If we can cool things off, give people something to do that’s outside that’s going to engage them. The commissioner has so many projects that are in the works. There’s going to be public art. We’re improving the parks,” Jones said.
According to Barbara Quattro, president of Alief’s Super Neighborhood Council, planting more trees will make the suburb “look good,” encouraging people, including criminals, to respect it. She thinks the trees will help “the broken window theory,” which states that visible signs of crime and disorder encourage further crime and disorder.
Alief is throwing shade at crime… literally. City leaders hope beautifying the neighborhood will help deter crime based on the "broken window theory." https://t.co/ia9XgTH2vt
— ABC13 Houston (@abc13houston) April 21, 2023
“If the place looks ugly and barren and it looks like nobody cares for it, nobody will care for it. I think that encourages crime. It encourages vandalism. Trees are a win-win for everybody. They not only look good, but they make the place look good, and people respect it more,” Quattro said.
ABC13 Houston noted that the trees will be planted along 17 miles of Alief-area roads and that the $2 million cost comes from President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law in 2021.
The trees will be planted in late winter 2023 and early 2024, primarily in medians and sidewalks. By 2025, the project should be complete.