Newark is the largest city in New Jersey. The crime rate in Newark is higher than the national average with a rate of 46 crimes per one thousand residents. In comparison to 29 other major cities, Newark is second to last in terms of municipal spending on parks and recreation. Newark has 3.65 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents. National standards call for 325-500 acres for a population of this magnitude. Other high -density cities (New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore and Los Angeles) averaged at 7.17 acres per 1,000 residents.
Be the Change NJ, a community service and activism group is actively engaged in peace efforts by “adopting” vacant lots in dangerous Newark NJ neighborhoods and turning them into “gardens”. On South 14th St. the community has a high violent crime rate. . A community garden with playground equipment was constructed as a safe place for children to play away from the street. These efforts have been successful in “bringing unity to the community” as one resident said, and creating a dialog regarding peace and non -violence as well as demonstrable drops in violent crimes. Six of these gardens were created by “Be the Change” in the Central, South and West Wards.
An in-depth analysis of pilot data was conducted using a pre and post intervention model (garden impact area) in a high crime area on South 14th St. The research analyzed quantitative data created by crime reports generated by Newark Police Department and homicide mapping using data from the Newark Regional Medical Examiner’s Office. . The pilot study showed a significant decrease in violent crime in the Garden Impact Area (a radius of 5 blocks in all directions). In fact all violent crime ceased for a period of 6 weeks following the installment of the community garden.
Community gardens offer an increased accessibility to food sources for urban residents by providing high quality, locally grown healthy fruits and vegetables. These gardens promote visual improvements to city neighborhoods, empower residents to take back their streets and to understand the role that they can have in local issues that affect their quality of life and promote food justice. Research on community gardens has proven them effective at filling in vacant lots with productive uses. The goal is to create more of these gardens! Join us!