Parks as Violence Prevention


Fit2Lead was created as an after-school violence prevention program by the Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces Department targeting high-need neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County, Florida in 2015. That year, over 4000 juveniles in the county were arrested, and youth shooting deaths and overall community violence were also growing. For adolescents age 12 to 14 years old, Fit2Lead consisted of daily academic support, sports, meditation, and other life skills–centered activities at twelve Miami-Dade County parks. Older teens received year-round paid internships with the Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces Department and 3-hour weekly resilience and life skills workshops. The effectiveness of the intervention was recently evaluated by examining change in neighborhood youth arrest rates (as a proxy for youth violence) from 2015-2017.

All zip codes near Fit2Lead park sites (blue center dots) showed a decrease (green) or no change (yellow) in youth arrest rates. Areas near other youth program sites (pink center dots) had both increases (red) and decreases in youth arrest rates, however most of the alternative youth programs that showed decreases were close to Fit2Lead sites.

Fit2Lead successfully reached young people in Miami-Dade County. The researchers found that parks and recreation departments can be strong, nontraditional partners in promoting resilience and preventing violence among youth and may be successful in other cities.

Databyte via D’Agostino, Emily M., et al. “Two-Year Changes in Neighborhood Juvenile Arrests After Implementation of a Park-Based Afterschool Mental Health Promotion Program in Miami–Dade County, Florida, 2015–2017.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 109, no. S3, 2019.