UCLA CHPR evaluated Los Angeles County’s Parks After Dark Program, which turns parks into vibrant community centers.
Parks After Dark is a Los Angeles County program that began in 2010 as the prevention strategy of LA County’s Gang Violence Reduction Initiative, and evolved into a key strategy to promote health, safety, equity, and community well-being that has been adopted into the strategic plans of several LA County departments and initiatives.
Led by the Department of Parks and Recreation, Parks After Dark is a collaboration of multiple LA County departments and agencies to invest in community-based strategies that provide access to free recreation and resources for youth and adults, helping to build resilient communities and prevent youth from becoming involved in the criminal justice system. Parks After Dark keeps parks open late during summer weekend evenings at parks in unincorporated communities of Los Angeles County, and offers a variety of free activities for people of all ages.
The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR) was selected to conduct the process and outcome evaluation of the Parks After Dark program. The evaluation, led by UCLA CHPR’s Health Economics and Evaluation Research team, found that the Parks After Dark program:
- Decreased community violence and increased safety;
- Facilitated cross-sector collaborations in park communities and countywide;
- Increased social cohesion and family and community well-being;
- Increased access to free recreational programming, health, and social services that reflect the interests and needs of communities served;
- Increased physical activity and decreased chronic disease risk;
- Contributed to positive youth development; and
- Achieved cost savings.
Parks After Dark provides crucial recreational programming in Los Angeles County parks in a safe environment. It’s an opportunity to enjoy free outdoor activities and exercise, spend time with family and experience the beauty of nature without fear of violence. This is critical for communities to thrive.