This partnership between the community and the LAPD has greatly reduced violent crime in and around Harvard Park in South Los Angeles.
On Saturday, Sept. 8th, over 1,000 residents attended a community celebration to mark the first-year anniversary of the Community STEPS program and the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Community Safety Partnership in South LA’s Harvard Park neighborhood.
One year ago, the LAPD introduced 10 police officers dedicated to the community. Twice a month for the past year, community members and the LAPD officers enjoyed walking, biking, dancing, playing basketball, learning healthy recipes and more through Community STEPS, a program aimed at creating a safe space for dialogue and exercise for community members and law enforcement.
“The vision of the Community S.T.E.P.S. program is to bring law enforcement and the community together to create a safe space for dialogue and exercise,” said Eric Batch, Vice President of Government Relations for the American Heart Association.
“Because it's community-based policing here, our goal is to bridge the gap (between the LAPD and the community),” said LAPD officer Marcus Whitehead. “Our goal is to reestablish the relationship with the community and getting them to know us as humans instead of just police officers.”
A similar program has been extremely successful in 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.
“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.”
There was much to celebrate on Saturday. In its first year, the Community Safety Partnership saw a nearly 50% reduction in violent crime and overall park participation is at an all-time high. There has also been a significant increase in youth sports sign-ups. And In collaboration with the LAPD and the Department of Recreation and Parks, Community STEPS was able to provide opportunities for community members to get active together, discuss issues that affect the community, and work toward solutions. The AHA was also able to support other community events such as the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway, a Christmas toy drive, Black History Month, a Community Clean Up, a Community Bike Ride, and a basketball tournament as part of the inaugural (global) “Go Hoop Day.”
The Community STEPS walks will continue on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month at 9:00 AM and we look forward to another successful year.
The anniversary celebration, co-sponsored by AADAP, the American Heart Association, the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks, Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, the Empowerment Congress Central Area Neighborhood Development Council, Gang Reduction & Youth Development, the 77th Division of the Los Angeles Police Department, the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti, The District Music Group, and Tommy The Clown kicked off with a short media event with remarks from key elected and community leaders. Their remarks were followed by a ceremonial walk around the park and a festival featuring a host of activities, including football, a tennis and basketball skills challenge, skateboarding, the opportunity for one-on-one conversations with the officers, Hands-Only CPR training, a cooking demonstration, and more. Complimentary blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI screenings were also offered.
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