Cleaning Up the Streets: How Street Sweeping Can Lower Crime Rates

It’s true that there are several benefits to street sweeping. In our previous post on 3 Benefits of Street Sweeping, we discussed safety and environmental improvement. But there is a specific benefit to street sweeping that you may not have thought about before. When it comes to lowering crime rates, cleaning the streets has a positive effect.

Of course it’s good to keep your street clear and safe from dangerous debris. But when you can improve the cleanliness of your city’s streets, you’ll make the environment safer for everyone. Where there’s less crime, there’s less chance of injury, loss, and violence.

Crime in the U.S.

On average, about 3,800 out of every 100,000 U.S. citizens fall victim to crimes each year. This isn’t a number most people are comfortable knowing, because it means your chances are higher than zero. But, certain cities of the world have taken a new approach to crime reduction. Read on to find out what changes they made.

Putting Clean Streets to the Test

It’s easy to make claims that clean streets help lower crime rates, but this is no new theory. In 2010, the Rotterdam police department conducted “The Neighbourhood Takes Charge” experiment. After asking residents for improvements, Rotterdam police spent time each week fulfilling these requests.

Most requests weren’t about specific crimes, but rather about improving the “walkability” of their streets. Common preferred measures included:

  • Controlling speeding vehicles by reducing and enforcing speed limits
  • Cleaning up and preventing pet debris
  • Basic street upkeep, including trash disposal and street sweeping

True to their word, the Rotterdam police force spent time cleaning graffiti and the street itself. They also responded by increasing their public presence and cracking down on speeding violations. Some thought that more serious crimes would skyrocket from neglect, but crime rates dropped.

After the two year trial period, drug crimes and vandalism decreased by 30%, while burglaries dropped by 22%. Even theft and violence saw drops in occurrence after police made specific efforts to clean the streets.

Although this could be a fluke, there’s no ignoring cities who have followed suit. Later in 2012, high-crime areas of New York City and London both lessened crime rates with focused clean-up. Results continue to come from clean streets.

In October of 2014, leaders of Pine Bluff Arkansas set out to make changes in their more problematic neighborhoods. Focusing on areas that made the most police, ambulance, and fire department calls, the police and local mayor spent months cleaning. Leaders also made a point to talk with residents of these areas to find out what things they thought needed improvement. Pine Bluff crime rates dropped by 30% as a result of these efforts.

The Formula for Success

It may seem arbitrary or even obvious, but there are several ways you can clean your streets. One of the best ways to get quality cleaning for a large area or city is by using power street sweepers. This lessens dust and pollution levels, while also clearing dangerous debris from the street.

Everyone can do their individual part for cleanliness, of course. Encourage citizens to pick up litter and garbage when they see it. Keeping emptied and accessible trash cans can also improve the ease of keeping any street clean. It’s difficult to be a good citizen by picking up litter if there’s nowhere to deposit it, after all.

You can also encourage city cleanliness by scheduling regular street sweepings in advance. Develop a set schedule to avoid forgetting. You can even craft this schedule to coincide with other common city events. That way, your streets will be pristine for whatever big event is coming your way.

Anti-crime teams all around the United States recognize the value of a clean street. When a city is clean and well-kept, it promotes an atmosphere of friendliness and honesty. Conversely, an area full of broken windows and accumulated trash gives the feeling that crimes occur there. Such an environment can thereby promote crime itself. Show the best side of your city by engaging in and enforcing street cleanliness.

From what you can see in the previous examples, there are some common elements in all four city’s plan:

  1. Focus on specific problematic or struggling areas
  2. Consult local residents and citizens for improvements
  3. Cleaning the street in more ways than one
  4. Measuring the effects on the crime rate

With these four main elements of city cleanup, you can improve your city, too. After learning the effects clean streets have on crime rates, take advantage of your confidence in trying something similar. Every city and every citizen deserves a safe and clean environment to live and work in. Make a commitment now to “clean up your streets” too, whether that means focusing on certain areas, hiring a regular street sweeper, or talking to local residents about relevant issues.