It never hurts to get creative when you're trying to keep the peace and serve your community. Thinking outside the box, as the old cliché goes. And, as it turns out, that's exactly what some city officials in the so-called Emerald City have been doing in recent years — Seattle is fighting crime with ping pong, and it might be working out.
Here's the basic idea: if there's crime happening in or around a Seattle city park, why not put up some community, free-to-play ping pong tables to try to foster a more wholesome environment? The premise is fairly straightforward — if you make families feel welcome and safe in the park, as well as fun-loving competitors of all ages, you might create an environment less attractive for criminal activity. And, conversely, an environment that's very attractive for any of you hawk-eyed paddle slingers out there. Who wants next game?
According to Seattle local NBC affiliate KING 5, the city's first community ping pong tables went up in the Chinatown district, at Hing Hay Park. And while it's still too early to draw any definitive conclusions, with the numbers reflecting a narrow and uncontrolled sample, this much can be said: the parks have seen less crime, on average, since the tables went up.
So, what do the numbers look like? Here's the Seattle PD's yearly record of criminal incidents in and around Hing Hay Park dating back to 2009, as helpfully detailed by KING 5. The tables, mind you, first went up in 2011.
- 2009 — 46 incidents
- 2010 — 38 incidents
- 2011 — 15 incidents
- 2012 — 39 incidents
- 2013 — 10 incidents
- 2014 — 16 incidents
Obviously, caution and care are vital when assessing changes in public policy. But when the change is as small and as universally enjoyable as bringing free ping pong to the people, well, why not have at it? As demonstrated above, since the year the tables debuted, Hing Hay Park has averaged 20 criminal incidents per year, and that's bouyed by a rough 2012. But even with that peak taken into account, it's still a much lower average than the preceding two years, at 42 incidents.
Of course, whether this somewhat novel approach to crime reduction is actually a winner will be easier to tell when there's a truly representative sample size, stretched out over a number of years. But it sounds like Seattle will at least put the theory to the test — tables have been added to five city parks now, the most recent of which just debuted at Cal Andersen Park. In short, even though not all of them are apparently as functional as they could be, it sure sounds like fun.
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