Wannabe Comptroller Lierman Claims “Trees Stop Crime”

“There are numerous studies done in Maryland showing a direct correlation between decreased crime and increased trees.” – Del. Brooke Lierman

One of the most memorable moments of the 2021 legislative session, according to some State House hands, came from Del. Brooke Lierman’s “Trees Stop Crime” speech.  Some might think that her words must have been taken out of context; no one really could be that clueless. 

Yet here is her complete statement:

“We are going to plant five million trees in this state under this legislation. That is going to have immediate public health benefits. That is going to reduce public health costs for our citizens.  That is going to have a remarkable impact on our homes and the value of our homes, and even on crime. There are numerous studies done in Maryland showing a direct correlation between decreased crime and increased trees. So, I am thrilled to go home to tell my children that we are going to plant five million trees over the next ten years in Maryland.”

Lierman’s entire speech is available on YouTube –https://youtu.be/JvLHtUNKJpY  

Her “Trees Stop Crime” position deserves special attention as Lierman has emerged as a leading Democratic contender to replace Peter Franchot as State Comptroller.  His office becomes open in the 2022 election as Peter Franchot runs for Governor.

How should the media cover such silliness?

Perhaps, the Baltimore Sun might ask the estimated number of trees required to reduce that city’s murder rate.  WBAL and FOX 5 can cover the prospects for a trees “solution” in Lierman’s Fells Point neighborhood in which three dozen businesses recently threatened to withhold tax and permit payments until Baltimore addresses illegal alcohol and drug sales, public drinking, poor trash pickup, parking enforcement, and other problems.[i]

The science-minded Washington Post could delve into the details of the “specific studies in Maryland” showing a “direct correlation” between decreased crime and increased trees. Lierman’s claims apparently stem from a study funded with a $6 million grant from – hold for it now – the Centers for Disease Control. [ii] (Thank you, Dr. Fauci?) The Capital Gazette might quote an expert to comment on the science behind Lierman’s “immediate public health benefits” claims. 

At the Washington Times or Examiner, a reporter who passed a statistic course could explain that “correlation does not imply causation.”[iii] 

The Hagerstown Herald-Mail or the Cecil Whig might encourage Lierman to spend more time outside urban Maryland to see the state’s trees. Forests make up nearly 4,000 square miles (40%) of Maryland’s land surface. The Maryland Code defines a forest as” Areas that have at least 100 trees per acre with at least 50% of those trees having a 2 inch or greater diameter at 4.5 feet above the ground and larger ” [iv]  Use the broader “Tree Canopy” category and woods cover over half of Maryland landmass.  

The forest industry is the fifth-largest in the state. An estimated 18,000 people depend on the forest products industry for their livelihood. In Garrett and Allegany Counties, it is the single largest employer, and on the Eastern Shore, it is the second largest. [v] Today more acres are producing wood fiber than 100 years ago.[vi]  Production of lumber and building materials in the Fiscal Year 2019 generated $418 million, supplying 8.52% of Maryland’s overall tax receipts.[vii]

Other media outlets might want to question Lierman’s math about adding half a million trees a year.  According to the National Forest Service, Maryland has 1.3 billion trees.  Consequently, Lierman’s half a million trees more a year for the next ten years will add a just single new tree a year for every 2,600 trees we currently have.[viii]

Being Maryland’s Comptroller is a serious job.  The constitutional duties of the office begin with the broad mandate to: “…have the general superintendence of the fiscal affairs of the State; he shall digest and prepare plans for the improvement and management of the revenue, and for the support of the public credit; prepare and report estimates of the revenue and expenditures of the State; superintend and enforce the prompt collection of all taxes and revenues; adjust and settle, on terms prescribed by law, with delinquent collectors and receivers of taxes and State revenue..”[ix]

Can Marylanders take seriously a candidate for Comptroller who claims that “Trees Stop Crime?”

[i] https://www.wbal.com/article/519656/124/fells-point-business-owners-find-progress-after-meeting-with-leaders-on-crime

[ii] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-trees-could-help-stop-crime_n_56675d8fe4b080eddf5609c6; https://yvpc.sph.umich.edu/

[iii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation

[iv] https://codes.findlaw.com/md/natural-resources/md-code-nat-res-sect-5-1601.html

[v] https://dnr.maryland.gov/forests/Pages/Forest-Tree-Data.aspx

[vi] https://dnr.maryland.gov/forests/Pages/mdfacts.aspx

[vii] https://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/html/forests.html

[viii] https://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/futures/current_conditions/states/?state=MD

[ix] Maryland Constitution ARTICLE VI, Sec 2; https://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/43const/html/06art6.html