The launch celebration also featured the expansion of the Community Safety Partnership with the LAPD.
By Tracey Edwards
Several hundred South Los Angeles residents attended a festival at Jackie Tatum/Harvard Recreation Center that promoted healthy lifestyles as well as a community partnership with law-enforcement officers.
At the festival, adults and children ran the 40-yard dash, played tennis, rode bicycles, learned about healthy ways to prepare meals, and took health screenings for blood pressure and cholesterol.
This celebration was so that the American Heart Association (AHA) could launch their Community S.T.E.P.S program (Strategic Dialogue That’s Empowered by Public Safety). This program was created to help ease the tension between communities of color and law enforcement officers.
“The American Heart Association and our CEO Nancy Brown put out a challenge to all of our staff,” said Eric Batch, vice president of Advocacy for AHA, Los Angeles. “She asked, ‘What can we, as the AHA family, do at a moment like this?’ That was really the inspiration behind creating this program. We started to think about how the AHA can play a role in building the community’s strength around health and well being.”
The AHA encourages people to perform at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week.
“It just clicked,” Batch said. “How about we create a program where the officers and community members could walk together, and create a dialogue. It would essentially create walking meetings where community members can share anything that they wanted to share of concern, and vice versa. The officers could hear these concerns, and build relationships.”
The AHA partnered with the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, and the Los Angeles Urban League to create this program.
The walks at the park will be biweekly on Saturdays, starting at 9 a.m. The first walk will take place on September 30.
This program will also collaborate with the Community Safety Partnership, which is a program that was created in the housing projects of Watts. In that program, police officers coached youth sports teams and participated in community activities. The program successfully reduced violent crime and arrests by 50 percent.
Ten LAPD officers will work directly in the community surrounding Harvard Park, using relationship-based strategies to create trust and prevent crime.
“We are taking a successful model introduced in the housing projects and implementing them in a neighborhood,” said City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson. “We believe we can reduce violence and we can get police and the community to work together towards a solution.”
Jackie Tatum/Harvard Recreation Center is located at 1535 W. 62nd St. Contact them at (323) 778-7268. For more information about AHA's Community S.T.E.P.S. program, visit http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Affiliate/Community-STEPS_UCM_495434_SubHomePage.jsp