According to a news report posted on June 26th by a local TV station, a man attempted to abduct two boys who were riding their bikes near a public park in Bloomington, Indiana.
Per channel 13 WTHR:
The man apparently tried to lure the two five-year-old boys into the woods. But another man was playing disc golf nearby and saw the situation and felt something was not right. As the boys followed the stranger, the man playing disc golf approached the boys and the apparent abductor. The stranger ran off into the woods.
The father of one of the boys said, “I feel truly blessed. This was definitely eye opening. If it was not for the Frisbee golfer that came to my son’s rescue I don’t know where we’d be at right now.”
Bloomington police classified the incident as an attempted abduction. The boys were not physically harmed by the man, believed to be in his early 20s, with blonde hair and wearing black clothes.
While public park visitors should know that incidents like these are extremely rare, a wealth of scientific research suggests that the frequency of crimes in public parks and green spaces diminishes as the number of park visitors and other bystanders increases.
In some public parks, the presence of disc golfers is likely reducing minor crimes, and can, as demonstrated by this case, help prevent tragic ones.
Disc golfers may also be helping people feel safer and more comfortable in parks. A recent study by Jorgensen, Ellis and Ruddell argued that the fear of crime discourages many people from using public parks, and that the mere presence of people in parks may lower these fears.
The researchers recruited 732 people for their study. Each participant was shown a series of photographs depicting a variety of park settings. People were present in one half of the photos and absent from the other half. (See examples from the study above).
Pointing to one of the photos, the researcher would say to the participant, “Imagine you are in this park area recreating alone without a dog or another person, and you are moving toward what you see in the photograph.”
After looking at the photo for a moment, participants rated their fear of crime in that area on a scale from 1 (no fear of crime) to 7 (extremely high fear of crime). The results of the study clearly showed that the photos that lacked people produced greater fear than the ones with people in them.
Although the study did not test the effects of disc golfers in particular, it seems likely that building a disc golf course in a park that receives few visitors would reduce the fears of all park goers and thereby increase the park’s overall use.
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Parked is underwritten in part by a grant from the Professional Disc Golf Association.