LOGAN SQUARE — A new study suggests that the 606 has helped reduce crime in neighborhoods closest to the trail.
In the yearlong study, published in the journal Environment and Behavior, three researchers compared city crime statistics in neighborhoods closest to the 2.7-mile-long trail (Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park) with neighborhoods of similar socioeconomic conditions in other parts of the city.
For example, the researchers compared Wicker Park to Lincoln Square.
The crime rates for June through November in 2011, which was before the trail opened, were compared to crime rates during the same period in 2015, when the trail debuted.
What the researchers found was that crimes of all types — property, disorderly and violent — fell at a faster rate in neighborhoods closest to the trail than in similar neighborhoods away from the trail over the four-year period.
The neighborhoods near the western part of the trail — Logan Square and Humboldt Park — saw the biggest crime decrease.
The three also looked at crime rates within walking distance —a half-mile — of the trail in 2011 and 2015. In this analysis, they determined that property crimes — though not violent or disorderly crimes — decreased at a faster rate than before the trail was built.
"The rate of decrease in property crimes was one of the more interesting things [we found]," said Harris, a Chicago resident and former Chicago Park District intern.
Both findings suggest the 606 has a positive impact on neighborhood crime, said Harris, the lead author of the study.
The three researchers are not the first to tackle the relationship between green space and crime. But the researchers said the 606 presented a unique opportunity. The trail is new, it serves residents across the socioeconomic spectrum and a large number of crimes occur nearby.
According to Harris, many factors contributed to the crime drop near the 606.
"A lot of times you see increases in pedestrian traffic that help deter the criminal-type behavior. It all goes back to the idea of 'eyes on the street,'" he said.
Plus, the city installed new lighting, security cameras and increased the police presence when the trail was built, he said.
Larsen said he believes that the trail may give people who live near it "a greater sense of community" which "prompts them to take ownership in the trail."
This study is the first of many to come on the subject. Next, Harris is looking at how the 606's programming, like dance and gardening classes, affects neighborhoods closest to the trail.
"Programming and design have been shown in research across the board to be critical," he said. "I think the city has already done a really good job at that. They're already programmed the space really, really well."
Through the next leg of research, Harris said he hopes to determine specifically what types of programs have the most positive impact.