Using art as a crime-fighting strategy

DSCN6560Last week, Provo unveiled a pair of new murals along the fabulous Provo River Trail. The trail — which follows an old rail line from Provo Canyon to Utah Lake — was already one of the best things about the Wasatch Front, but this new art will certainly make it more interesting.

But that’s not all; the murals also are explicitly part of a crime-fighting strategy:

They’re purpose is to keep crime in these two spots to a minimum.

“We had one incident where we were painting, that one of the gals walked through, and she says she never runs through the trail on this particular area, through the tunnel, (because) she didn’t feel safe,” Provo Police Sgt. Mark Crosby said. “But since the mural’s been up, she says she feels safer and she runs through the tunnel all the time.”

Of course, city leaders aren’t naïve. They know a couple of paintings aren’t going to solve crime. But they do think the artwork will help.

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This a creative solution that almost certainly costs less over time than permanently stationing police in trouble spots. In Provo, this is a big deal; there have been a number of crimes on the trail, including a rape last year that I wrote about while working at the Daily Herald.

How well this works remains to be seen, and of course it’ll have to be part of a broader strategy. But it does seem to be an interesting experiment in the “broken window theory” of crime-fighting that, successful or not, may offer lessons for other cities.

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