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Does free ping pong in Seattle parks stop crime? (+video)

Five of Seattle's parks have public ping pong tables now. While the Seattle crime stats are inconclusive, some say this initiative is on the right track. 

The city of Seattle is wondering if free ping pong in its parks may help stop crime.

KING-TV reports that the city's experiment with a free ping pong table seems to be making a difference.

Cal Anderson Park in Seattle got its first free ping pong table this week after a community group raised $1,500 to buy the table, paddles and balls.

A ping pong table was installed at Hing Hay Park in Chinatown four years ago. Since then, crime data from the Seattle Police Department suggests incidents in the area seem to be going down, although there have been ups and downs. There were 46 crime incidents in the area in 2009 and 16 in 2014.

No one is willing to draw a direct connection between the ping pong table and the crime statistics, but the city has installed four other tables since then. Officials suggest that the positive community activity could be crowding out crime.

"It changes the perception that parks can be dark and unsafe," Adrienne Caver-Hall, who heads up the city's family activities in parks program, told KING-TV.

"Ping pong brings people to a neighborhood, to a space," said Maiko Winkler-Chin, director of the Chinatown International District Preservation & Development Authority. "If there's a lot of positive activity, some of the negative stuff doesn't want to be here."

In fact, a 2009 report on how to deal with "crime disorder in urban parks," by the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, came to a similar conclusion. Safer parks emerge when law abiding citizens take ownership of the parks from the criminals. 

This guide's core assumption is that the key to reducing crime and disorder in urban parks is for police to engage the local community in all stages of the problem-solving process, to ensure that (1) there will be a dominant legal use of the park, and (2) that local community members will act as natural guardians....

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