Published Date: May 22, 2024

Summary: In this report, the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research provides information from their evaluation of the 2023 Parks After Dark (PAD) program in Los Angeles County.

PAD is a Los Angeles County initiative led by the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) in partnership with other County departments and community-based organizations. Thirty-four DPR parks hosted PAD between June and August 2023. PAD was offered three nights a week for eight weeks, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. In 2022, PAD expanded to include one-day events around spring and winter school breaks.

Select 2023 evaluation findings include:

  • Difference-in-difference (DD) analysis indicated a reduction in crime rates in PAD parks after implementation of PAD when compared to similar parks that did not implement PAD, with 74 fewer Part I crimes and 43 fewer Part II crimes between 2010 and 2023 in all PAD parks. As indicated in 2023 PAD participant surveys, among PAD attendees who expressed not feeling safe in their neighborhood, 64% felt safe at PAD.
  • In key informant surveys, PAD partners strongly agreed that PAD improved collaboration between County departments and community-based organizations (9.3 of 10).
  • In 2023 PAD participant surveys, attendees overwhelmingly reported that PAD increased quality time with family members (96%), provided a sense of belonging within the community (96%), and improved their relationship with their neighbors (94%).
  • Of attendees who did not meet the recommended activity guidelines for their age, 76% participated in physical activity at PAD. Using a modified version of the Integrated Transport and Health Impacts Model (ITHIM), the level of physical activity at PAD, if sustained year-round, would primarily reduce stroke and ischemic heart disease and lead to an overall decline of 20 years of life lost, 20 fewer years of disability adjusted life years, and avoidance of two premature deaths for the entire PAD population in 2023.
  • A vast majority of attendees expressed high levels of satisfaction, with 97% saying they would attend PAD again and 97% also said they would recommend PAD to others. 

The 2023 evaluation findings demonstrate that PAD has made significant progress in achieving its intended goals through the provision of quality recreational programming in a safe and family-friendly environment. Evidence indicates that PAD may have reduced crime in PAD parks and their surrounding areas since its inception in 2010, while also ensuring participant’s sense of safety. Findings further indicate that PAD encouraged meaningful collaboration between participating County departments and community-based organizations; contributed to participant’s feelings of well-being, family togetherness, and social cohesion; and meaningfully involved a diverse range of participants in community-driven programming (including youth and seniors). PAD offered sports, entertainment, and other activities for children and adults with no barriers to participation and may have reduced the burden of disease for those that engaged in exercise opportunities. Overall, participant satisfaction levels at PAD remain high each year.

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