National Academy of Medicine

Safe Summer Parks Programs Reduce Violence and Improve Health in Los Angeles County

By Kelly N. Fischer, Steven M. Teutsch
April 10, 2014 | Discussion Paper

In their discussion paper, Fischer and Teutsch offer a vivid example of a multi-sector, innovative program implemented in several vulnerable communities in Los Angeles county. The program Parks After Dark is elegantly simple in concept. Parks could be the locus for recreation, physical activity, and community and civic interaction, but parks are also the site of violent crime that makes community members feel unsafe, and keeps them away from these green spaces and increasingly isolated from fellow residents. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Sheriffs’ Department, and Department of Parks and Recreation have been working with communities to transform parks after dark. Safe Summer Parks activities were first introduced as a strategy of the county’s Gang Violence Reduction Initiative, but soon public health joined law enforcement and parks and recreation in developing summer park programming. In addition to documented decreases in crime, community members have reported increased satisfaction with and use of their local parks, and the program has strengthened social cohesion and engagement, and has spurred new and emerging collaborative projects, such as between public health and community youth.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). The paper is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It is not a report of the NAM or the National Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.