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Crime drops around 8 local city parks

September 8, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Gang-related murders and aggravated assaults decreased between July 4th and Labor Day in the communities surrounding eight parks kept open late and providing youths with sports and arts activities, police and city officials announced Monday. Residents in Baldwin Village say by day they felt comfortable visiting Jim Gilliam Park, but by nightfall they say the park became a haven for gangs and other bad elements.

However, this summer Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa along with Police Chief William Bratton announced for the first time in more than 40 years that there was a drop in crime in more than half-a-dozen of the city's most dangerous parks like Jim Gilliam.

"During the past eight weeks we reclaimed our parks and put them back in the hands of the families they are suppose to serve. We have proven that cops and communities can work together as teammates," said Mayor Villaraigosa.

Under a summer long gang reduction effort city officials and police started the "Summer Night Lights" program at the eight most crime plagued parks including Jim Gilliam Recreation Center and Glassell Park in Los Angeles.

The program which began on July 4 and ran through Labor Day, basically kept the lights on in the parks after dark saturating them with activities and a huge police presence.

"Thousands upon thousands of people came out into their parks and enjoyed them in ways that they have never experienced before," said Chief Bratton.

Officials say that communities surrounding the eight "Summer Night Light" parks saw a nearly 20 percent drop in violent crime, and almost 90 percent drop in killings. Aggravated assaults decreased by more than 20 percent as well.

They add that the area surrounding the Jim Gilliam park had the biggest reduction with more than a 32 percent drop in violent crime and no murders.

Residents in the area say that for the first time, in a very long time, they feel comfortable enough to come to the park at night.

"I have seen a change and I feel very comfortable bringing my kids here. I have been living around the jungles for about a year now. At first I would of never of brought my kids to the park. But once I found out about the new programs and the stuff that was going on, I bring them all the time," said a resident and concerned parent.

"I think it is a safe area and we are not to far from the police station and the fire department. I think it is a safe park," said a resident.

The $1 million effort was paid for with donations from The Weingart Foundation; The California Endowment; The Ahmanson Foundation; The Eisner Foundation; The LA84 Foundation; The Wellness Foundation; Wells Fargo Bank; The Hauptman Family; and an anonymous donor.

In addition to Ross Snyder, the participating parks were:

  • Jim Gilliam Park in Baldwin Village
  • Ramon Garcia Park in Boyle Heights
  • Cypress Park
  • Glassell Park
  • Mount Carmel Park in Florence-Graham
  • Hubert Humphrey Park in Pacoima
  • Ramona Gardens Recreation Center

Overall, crime is down in the city of Los Angeles. There were 84 murders in June, July and August -- the lowest figure since 1967 when there were 79 homicides during those three months. Homicides are down 8.5 percent compared to this time last year, and gang-related killings have declined 27 percent, according to the LAPD.

CNS contributed to this report.

 

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