Alternative energy, in a civic sense.

Stumbled across this write up from LA Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa about their Summer Night Lights (or its pop culture connotation, SNL) program, aimed at keeping gang violence and crime down during the summer months when it's commonly on the rise.

The concept is so simple, one of those "Why didn't they think of that sooner?" kinds of things: keep the lights on longer - literally - at the city's gang reduction zones and parks, extending the hours and having "recreational, educational and artistic activities" planned. At-risk youth were also hired to help create the programs -- money going toward people who are willing to work, for a good cause. Last summer, the program's first year, the city saw a 17% drop in violent gang related crime and 86% reduction in gang related homicides. It was the safest summer in more than three decades.

How's that for results?

This year, the program was doubled from 8 to 16 parks, and the city's mayor has pledged to get it running in 50 parks by the end of his second term.

A key sentence from the Villaraigosa's write up on the program's success:

The goal was not to try and change the identity of local gang members, but rather to change their behavior during the summer and encourage them to participate in the positive activities at the parks.

It's refreshing to see people at a city level starting to acknowledge what most pacifists have been saying all along: you cannot fight violence with violence. Patrolling around in cop cars looking for crime is a defensive, reactive way of doing business with gangs. The same could be said for our current war on terrorism. Torturing, humiliating and holding captive our suspected "terrorists" merely creates more terrorists. It doesn't address any sort of problem, except for perhaps gaining intelligence.

Intelligence, it seems, that we wouldn't need if everyone in Afghansitan and Iraq had reliable water, electricity and commerce. What if we kept the lights on a little longer, rather than blacking out to keep curfews, making everyone miserable? What if the same proactive, forward thinking was applied to our military strategy? Sure, I probably wouldn't be picnicking in Kabul anytime soon, but pouring billions of dollars into useful sources of education, recreation and artistic pursuits might just have changed things for some people.

But, on second thought, who am I kidding. The best way to keep violence down is to dump bombs on people and oppress them. That always seems to work. They should start giving it a shot in Los Angeles.

2 Response to "Alternative energy, in a civic sense."

  • el_longhorn Says:

    Good post. Having worked and lived in South Texas where there is very little recreational activity, it can mean so much to have these types of opportunities - especially for teens.

  • Mean Rachel Says:

    Thanks el. It seems so simple but makes sense. Even in Austin it would be nice to see these sorts of programs expanding. I know for my part, when I was a teenaged female, I never wanted to go to the local park after or around dusk.