Dr. Lauren Porter and Dr. Bianca Bersani are part of an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Maryland awarded a $30,000 grant to study park safety in Baltimore City, MD. This collaborative effort brings together a diverse set of skills and expertise from the department of Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCJS), the School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation (MAPP), and the School of Public Health (SPH). The team will systematically examine the built environment across relatively safe and unsafe parks in high-crime and under-resourced communities in Baltimore City.
The project, titled "Improving Park Safety and Building Healthier Communities: An In-depth Comparison of Crime-Hot and Crime-Cold Parks in Urban Baltimore," will involve a combination of spatial analysis techniques, systematic social observation, and field interviews to identify and understand disparities in the built environment between relatively safe and unsafe parks.
“Parks can be critical resources for communities by providing a safe space for children and adults to engage in recreation and prosocial behavior,” says Dr. Porter, “however, they can also draw large amounts of crime. This puzzle is largely unsolved – and it’s vitally important to solve it if we want to improve community safety and wellbeing.”
Led by Dr. Lauren Porter (CCJS), the research team includes Dr. Bianca Bersani (CCJS), Dr. Chester Harvey (MAPP), Dr. Elaine Doherty (SPH), and Casey Kindall . This interdisciplinary team will draw on park observations to develop hypotheses about potential relationships between environmental features and crime. The findings from this project will be used to inform potential interventions to improve park safety, which would be undertaken with input and collaboration with local communities. The team intends to submit a future research proposal to the National Institutes of Health or the National Institute of Justice aimed at designing, implementing, and testing such an intervention.