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PARKS, PROGRAMS HELP CUT CRIME, ADVOCATES SAY

SHARE PARKS, PROGRAMS HELP CUT CRIME, ADVOCATES SAY

Crime goes down where there are enough parks and recreation, says a report by a conservation group that wants hundreds of parks and playgrounds built in inner-city neighborhoods.

The report released Wednesday was intended to counter criticism that money in the House and Senate crime bills for midnight basketball leagues and other recreation programs would be better spent on prison cells.In its report, the Trust for Public Land found:

- Calls to police reporting juvenile crime in Phoenix decreased by as much as 55 percent when recreational facilities stayed open until 2 a.m. in the summer.

- Crime plummeted 90 percent in a Philadelphia precinct after police helped volunteers clean up vacant lots and plant gardens.

- Juvenile arrests declined by almost one-third in Fort Myers, Fla., after the city began a youth academics and recreation program.

- The once-abandoned JFK recreation center in Newark, N.J. - a target of vandals and other criminals - is now used by 5,000 young people a month and crime has decreased after the city renovated it.

The Trust, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco that has bought more than 1,000 properties to protect them as parkland, also announced a five-year, $2.5 billion Green Cities Initiative to create usable park and recreation areas in inner-city areas.