play Finalist / 2019

Community STEPS

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by American Heart Association

The vision of Community STEPS (Strategic dialogue That’s Empowered by Public Safety) is to bring law enforcement and the community together to create a safe space for dialogue and exercise. We walk together in the Jackie Tatum Harvard Park neighborhood to connect, discuss issues and work toward solutions while getting exercise. The program includes healthy activities for all ages as well as wellness events to include health information booths and blood pressure screenings.


What does your organization do?

The American Heart Association’s mission is to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.

Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

  • Community Safety Partnership of the 77th Division of the Los Angeles Police Department The LA Department of Recreation and Parks (Jackie Tatum Harvard Park) The LA Department of Recreation and Parks (South Park) The Economic Empowerment Congress Central Area Neighborhood Development Council The District Music Group The offices of the 8th Council District (Marqueece Harris-Dawson) The offices of the 9th Council District (Curren Price)

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

Following a series of police shootings in 2016 in Dallas and Baton Rogue, Nancy Brown, AHA’s CEO, challenged us to consider what we could do to help strengthen these communities. AHA’s Vice President of Advocacy Eric Batch was inspired by this challenge and the issue was brought home when his 7-year-old daughter was afraid to approach a police officer in parking lot. “It just clicked. How about we create a program where officers and community members could build relationships, create a dialogue and get exercise,” Batch said. His timing was perfect as LAPD had approval to provide ten dedicated officers in Jackie Tatum Harvard Park through its Community Safety Partnership.

Community residents who were at first hesitant to participate in the walks are now appearing every week. One resident was leery of doing things with police officers and said so. With a little coaxing he walked a lap. He enjoyed the conversation so much that he ended up walking three laps that first day out.

It’s also valuable to the police officers who are taking part. Officer Marcus Whitehead wandered over to one of the health screenings area one Saturday and decided to take his blood pressure. At only 34 years old, it was surprising when his numbers came in dangerously high 160/130. As a result, he went to his doctor and began making healthy lifestyle changes. “This program was set up to be beneficial for the community, but it helps us officers as well. If it wasn’t for STEPS, I may have never known my situation. I’m proof that it works,” said Whitehead.

Which of the play metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park
  • Per capita crime rates
  • Perceived safety

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • South LA

How will your project make LA the best place to play?

Research supports that actions to reduce violence and the fear of violence can play a key role in helping individuals gain access to healthy foods and increase their physical activity.

AHA’s Community STEPS program has proven to be a scalable and creative solution that can address neighborhood needs. Our goal is to foster ongoing dialogue with additional community stakeholders to inspire and support neighborhood innovation and ownership.

The Harvard Park neighborhood is diverse. Latinos account for two-thirds of residents with African Americans making up another third. Compared to other parts of LA county, this community is disproportionately at risk for cardiovascular diseases through increased incidence of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The successful collaboration between AHA, LAPD, and the LA Department of Parks and Recreation has created a safe place to talk, get active, and learn how to live a healthier life at Harvard Park. While our program has structured walks twice a month, community members are out walking now every day of the week! Over the next year, we’ll build on this success by adding structural components to continue incentives for the neighborhood to participate.

Adjacent communities are so excited about this program that they have requested we bring similar programs to their neighborhoods. With additional funding we’ll expand Community STEPS to South Park, the next site to be a part of LAPD’s Community Safety Partnership.

Activities for next year:

New Park: Working with the LAPD, we’ll expand to South Park, located just less than 3 miles away from Harvard Park, east of Highway 110 in South LA. We’ll hold a kickoff event at South Park and a second-year anniversary event at Harvard Park, followed by the implementation and continuation of our successful biweekly walking program at each site.

Biweekly Health Activities: In addition to walking programs, we’ll incorporate biweekly and monthly health events at both locations to include such things as blood pressure, cholesterol and BMI screenings, guest speakers, and themed events.

Staff: To ensure the program is facilitated biweekly across multiple locations, we’ll add two part-time staff to coordinate activities between community members and agency partners.

Marketing: We’ll use earned media including social media and targeted outreach. We’ll incorporate professional videography and photography at our events such as the Go Hoop Day (basketball), Skate Jam (skateboarding), Turkey Giveaway, bike events and others.

Incentives: To encourage ongoing participation in the program and reward milestones for participants we’ll provide various incentives including logo merchandise, t-shirts, water bottles, and pedometers/fitness trackers.

As part of the LA2050 “Play” goal, Community STEPS will increase the number of residents with easy access to a vibrant park, increase perceived safety, decrease crime rates and increase the intergenerational play opportunities.

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Post-pilot (testing an expansion of concept after initially successful pilot)

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

In the first year of the Community Safety Partnership in Harvard Park, the LAPD saw zero homicides and a 50 percent reduction in violent crime. An increase in park participation was also seen. The Community STEPS program was able to help contribute to some of this success by helping to facilitate police and community interactions.

Community STEPS could reach thousands of individuals immediately and could very quickly scale to be implemented across the 9,000 Los Angeles Police Department officers and 4 million people that they protect and serve. Additionally, there are several other metrics for measuring success associated with this program.

  • Community members feel “safer” to walk in their communities. A goal of the 77th Division of the LAPD is to reduce crime by 15%.

  • Participants increasing the amount of time per day/week that they are physically active. We’ll distribute fitness trackers and leverage existing AHA programs that allow for tracking exercise.

  • A reduction in blood pressure and other health metrics.

  • Law enforcement officers getting to better know and understand the communities in which they serve. Another goal of the 77th Division is to strengthen the community-police partnership and build morale through leadership.

  • Demonstrable reductions in crime.