Perceptions of safety and plant diversity preferences: a case study of high vacancy neighborhoods


2020-05-01, 2020-05-01

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Many problems of urban vacancies exist throughout the world. Vacant lands can evoke negative images, deterioration, danger, and they are even known to promote crime. They can reduce sense of belonging within a community and in the end, reduce the quality of life of the residents. However, vacant lands have the potential to bring positive images, such as, biodiversity of flora and fauna to cities. Using ecological functions and ecosystem services as a driver for change, this study applies theories such as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) and Cues to Care to examine how vacant lots can be repurposed to improve safety and reduce opportunities for criminal activity to occur. This study focuses on two high-vacancy neighborhoods of northeast Kansas City and uses a photo survey to assess community members’ perceptions of safety along densities and diversity of ‘cared for’ native vegetation within vacant lots. Past research has used images to test perceptions of safety within lots that showed different methods of ‘cleaning and greening’ and CPTED strategies. This research expands upon past studies and examines how proposing different levels of vegetative diversity affects perceived safety and preferences of residents. Out of 43 survey participants, almost half (48.8%) preferred the most diverse planting option. Although most participants preferred a highly diverse space, many (62.8%) wanted the space to be properly maintained with plantings in groups. A large percentage of residents (65%) preferred a space that allows clear viewing lines through the site where activities happening in the space can be seen from the street. Findings from this study supported the development for a Strategic Framework that defines vacant lots and connections for future implementation that have the possibility to restore patches of habitat and community spaces within the neighborhoods. Considering the neighborhoods’ needs, this plan includes planting and program guidelines for the chosen vacant lots that can be used as a general tool for vacant lots in other neighborhoods of similar characteristics.



Urban vacancy, Kansas City, Ecological restoration, Crime prevention, Planting preferences

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Master of Landscape Architecture


Department of Landscape Architecture/Regional and Community Planning

Major Professor

Sara Hadavi