A team of researchers at New York University say that everyday citizens who decide to improve their communities deserve much of the credit for falling crime rates.

Patrick Sharkey and his colleagues found that for every 10 community programs created in a city of 100,000 residents, there was a 6 percent drop in violent crime, 4 percent drop in property crime – and a 9 percent drop in the murder rate.

The study also found that while many of those neighborhood programs were not specifically designed to combat crime, they were doing so anyway.

Even unorganized, spontaneous efforts to improve communities suffering from high-crime rates proved valuable, the researchers say.