PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Place-based intervention is the idea that an environment directly impacts what type of behavior is produced from it. And epidemiologists across the nation have presented this as one solution to violent crimes in cities and it’s proven successful.

Dr. Kathleen Carlson, an injury epidemiologist with Oregon Health & Science University, has conducted extensive research of gun violence as a public health crisis.

In December 2020, when Congress authorized gun violence research funding for the first time since 1996, research in Carlson’s lab was well underway. Then, in 2022, Carlson received an OHSU Faculty Excellence and Innovation Award to develop an OHSU gun violence prevention research center.

Last year she held a round table with Dr. Charles Branas, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University.

Dr. Branas talked about place-based solutions to gun violence being used in other cities, such as Chicago.

He cited that places see a reduction in violence by 6% to 56% when abandoned buildings are fixed up and vacant lots are transformed into green spaces with grass and plants.

“For something like Malaria lets say, a disease where there’s a mosquito, and it puts a pathogen into an individual and becomes the host — the swamp around the mosquito that’s generating it continues to be a major opportunity for prevention. And this exact same focus on places can function for gun violence prevention as well,” said Dr. Branas.

Research suggests the environment can influence violence in a community. Changing those areas can encourage people to be less anxious, it can shift people’s mindsets on where they live and it removes places where firearm and crime can happen.

This strategy has been used before in Portland and proved beneficial.

Back in 2014, the Portland Police Bureau and the community renovated the intersection of Albina and Killingsworth, which Sgt. Mark Friedman said at one point was the place you’re most likely to get robbed at gunpoint in the city.

The project was the runner up for a Herman Goldstein Award, a national recognition of successful problem oriented policing.

“Adding a fence to a top of a wall, some of the doorways and alcoves that were used for drug dealing and drug were mitigated,” said Sgt. Friedman. “We did some work with TriMet on our bus shelters and actually just turned them opposite directions.”

And it worked.

From 2011 to 2012, violent crime reportedly fell by 70%. The report further showed that violent crime also decreased in 2012 by 67% when compared to the five previous years.