SEATTLE, Wash. -- Could ping pong stop crime?
That's a question advocates for Seattle's parks have asked themselves over the last several years as they raised money to bring free ping pong tables to a handful of city parks.
No. At least not directly.
"But it can bring in people to see there's something positive here," said Adrienne Caver-Hall, who heads up the city's efforts to spruce up parks with family activities.
One of those activities: free ping pong.
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.
The Capitol Hill park joins four others that have ping pong tables for public use: Hing Hay Park in Chinatown, Westlake, Occidental, and Pier 62/63.
"It changes the perception that parks can be dark and unsafe," said Caver-Hall.
The first free ping pong table was installed at Hing Hay Park in Chinatown four years ago.
These days, it's almost always being used by young and old players alike.
"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."
Negative stuff like drugs, crime, theft and prostitution used to flock to Hing Hay Park like a moth to a flame.
Crime data from the Seattle Police Department suggests incidents in the area near Hing Hay Park seem to ping-pong up and down over the years:
- 2009: 46 incidents
- 2010: 38
- 2011: 15
- 2012: 39
- 2013: 10
- 2014: 16
Is the free ping pong table making the park safer?
Nobody knows for sure.
But they do know that the parks are looking and sounding better these days.