In Tokyo, it's called "Operation Flower."

I, too, have observed the phenomenon: Pretty flowers deter crime. And in Suginami City, a district of Tokyo, there's pretty amazing data to back up the theories.

After a shameful year of break-ins in 2002 -- 1,710 in an area with a population of about 528,000 -- someone recognized that streets with more flowers had less crime.

The city began a campaign, encouraging volunteers to plant flower seeds in front of their houses, and tending them. The results stunned: Down 80% by 2008, to 390 total break-ins.

The theory is that with residents spending more time outside planting, weeding and watering their flowers, there are more people to keep an eye out for suspicious activity, deterring criminals.

I suspect it's a little bit of that, but more of this: With people outside tending to flowers, potential criminals put a face on the property. Instead of seeing the residence for its potential dollar value, the home is seen as that place with the nice woman who waves while she weeds.

And another thing: Well-tended gardens are lovely and demonstrate the care someone has taken over the home. When you respect your property, others will respect it, too.

Since we have fixed up our front yard, installing a friendly fence and lots of fruit, vegetable and herb plants, our property crime has gone to zero; and we lost a few bikes and a jogging stroller to criminals before the transformation.

The more people on the street who tend their gardens, the less crime we all have. Beauty and care begets respect; even from the criminal element.

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