LA Fights Park Crime With Midnight Lights

Even gang members invited to summer nights of food, music
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 12, 2009 1:41 PM CDT
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy David Mertens meets with former gang member, Brian Vidaillet, 31, in Avalon, Calif., Thursday, July 3, 2008.   (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
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(Newser) – Los Angeles' rundown parks used to be hotbeds of gang violence that scared away law-abiding neighbors after dark, but a new program has brought both a sense of community and a reduction in crime, the New York Times reports. The solution, which has already seen an 86% drop in homicides in targeted areas, has been to keep the lights on until midnight.

The program's $2.4 million budget also goes toward organizing sports leagues and providing everything from DJs to popcorn in 16 public parks located in gang territory. Parents, children, and a few police officers relax and romp, and even gang members aren't banned: "They’re welcome as long as they don’t cause problems.” (Read more gangs stories.)