East Palo Alto is one of the most violent places in the SF bay area. The police captain here has found an innovative way to reduce the crime rate without increasing the number of arrests. The city had earlier installed a “shotspotter” system that could help the police department pin point the location from which a gun had been fired. The data from the shotspotter in turn enabled the city to identify two hot spots for violence. From this point on the planners took to thinking out-of-the-box. They asked themselves the question – “What is happening to the citizens in these two neighborhoods?”. The answer was quick- obesity and chronic diseases.

The citizens in crime infested areas are forced to spend a lot more time in doors. Their children are more likely to watch more TV, play video games instead of being out in the world. These citizens are deprived of the small freedoms that most of us take for granted, for example, to step out of the house. The police captain Ron Davis put a plan to get the citizens out to the local parks, just twice a week, by creating a protected place where they could bike, play, zumba dance and mingle with health educators. It not only changed those that came out to participate in the organized activities but helped drop the crime rate by 60% in these two neighborhoods, in just five months.

Conventional solution would be to gear up into war footing – more police officers and increased patrols- to combat increased violence in a neighborhood. Here, the mere presence of good citizens, engaging in activities that they felt nice about shifted the consciousness of a neighborhood. “Playfulness is a quality of the angels” so believed the ancient people and that the demons are frightened by and hate this playfulness. Whether one believes in this doesn’t matter. Peace loving folk coming together can shift something in society as noticed in East Palo Alto. Citizen often forget the power of coming together, building up each other’s hopes and enthusiasm to bring about a change. We can make a change by attending the launch of Stress Free Violence Free Communities Campaign on March 24th in San Jose Convention Center.

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