He also fights crime
September 17, 2014 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Since 2009, a statue of Buddha has been quietly reducing criminal activity and increasing community in one Oakland neighborhood.
posted by Lexica (47 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
I had a huge dopey chocolate lab that did the exact same thing! TAKE THAT, BUDDHA!

Still this is really cool. A little piece of the sublime and contemplative, a little something to care for, can make all the difference.
posted by Mister_A at 10:51 AM on September 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


"Ladies of the evening"? Really?

Very inspired by this piece. How something so small could change a neighborhood.
posted by tofu_crouton at 11:02 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


You glued your dog to a median strip with $35 worth of epoxy? That's no way to treat a dog.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:02 AM on September 17, 2014 [34 favorites]


It's funny how this kind of thing works - I'm sure everyone has a similar kind of experience where a small gesture to improve the community results in a positive snowball effect. For my sister and I, it was tidying the student lounge and bringing in red geraniums in pots to put on the windowsill. Suddenly, everyone stopped treating the lounge like a bus station and started looking after things.

I love how the statue is now a little shrine, immovable both by vandals and NIMBYs.
posted by LN at 11:02 AM on September 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Surely Baphomet could do the same thing in Oklahoma!
posted by Perko at 11:10 AM on September 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


If that small Buddha can do that much good, just imagine how much good a seven-foot tall statue of Satan could do for the good people of Oklahoma.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:10 AM on September 17, 2014 [21 favorites]


wow, jinx.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:11 AM on September 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Sadly, some six sigma oriented city planner is thinking he can go buy a bunch of buddhas, bid out installation and think this will work in every neighborhood. He will miss that it was an *individual* effort, to show that the people are not all seen as rows in a spreadsheet.
posted by DigDoug at 11:12 AM on September 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


Big deal, let me know when he appears on a tortilla
posted by thelonius at 11:14 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Surely Baphomet could do the same thing in Oklahoma!

The effect may only relate to Buddha. After all, if size were the primary factor, Rio de Janeiro would have no crime at all. I am not sure if anyone has studied the anti-crime effects of the Daibutsu at Hase, for example, but it's definitely a field ripe for exploration. (Remember, however, it is in the nature of third reviewers to be unsatisfactory.)
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:15 AM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Ladies of the evening"? Really?

No? What is the currently preferred euphemism?

I'm sure everyone has a similar kind of experience where a small gesture to improve the community results in a positive snowball effect.

I have a neighbor who planted flowers at a busy ugly corner and the town made her dig them up because- I can't remember why.

And - just to be cranky - what is the ACLU's take on this one? (♫ Buddha, baby....♫)
posted by IndigoJones at 11:17 AM on September 17, 2014


My town (Bilfark, WY) has a 50-foot statue of Woody Harrelson, and a crime rate of nought. See what I mean?
posted by Mister_A at 11:19 AM on September 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


That tortilla has nothing on this watermelon.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:19 AM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


This story makes me happy. I do not approve of publically-supported religion, but I'd have to be even more churlish than I already am to complain. Inconsistent? Yep. You can't apply every rule everywhere the same way. Governments sort of have to,so they get stupid and complicated. How smart of them to just file it & forget it.
posted by theora55 at 11:20 AM on September 17, 2014 [5 favorites]



Sadly, some six sigma oriented city planner is thinking he can go buy a bunch of buddhas, bid out installation and think this will work in every neighborhood.


They will also import several hundred thousand pleasant, religious Thai women.
posted by GuyZero at 11:33 AM on September 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


This story makes me happy and is really sweet. But it would make me happier to see a follow-up from a reporter/interpreter who spoke the language(s) of the Buddhists tending the shrine. You're writing a story about a religious site, so why wouldn't you talk to the faithful who visit there? It feels here like the Buddhists are mysterious magic beings who materialize from the aether to leave offerings, instead of fellow neighbors who live in the area.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:33 AM on September 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


See also, Mostar Bruce Lee statue.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:33 AM on September 17, 2014


I'm really happy to hear that this worked!
posted by rebent at 11:37 AM on September 17, 2014


Man, I don't want to rain on the parade of this story, because it sounds like a lovely idea, but this is a small area in a quickly gentrifying area of Oakland, and similar reductions of crime and raises in rent have been happening in most of the neighborhoods around there. It's the area that's the subject of this article -- it's in the "East Lake" area of Oakland. It seems really unlikely the the Buddha had anything to do with it, as much as it was San Francisco's housing crunch and municipal beautification projects nearby.
posted by brainmouse at 11:37 AM on September 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


I love our neighborhood shrine.

Unfortunately I seem to have been just outside the protective anti-crime bubble when I got held up at gunpoint a month or two ago. Same for my wife a year earlier.

Still, it's an awesome thing to have.

510, baby.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:39 AM on September 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


This also reminds me of one of my favorite iPhone timewasters, Oh! Edo Towns, a city-building sim set in feudal Japan. Building a Daibutsu in your town really increases points!
posted by nicebookrack at 11:42 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


. . . a little something to care for, can make all the difference. - Mister A.

This.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 11:45 AM on September 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.

These people had ONE JOB.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:45 AM on September 17, 2014 [19 favorites]


Even apart from Brainmouses's critique, it's obviously the worshippers (i.e. people not engaged in criminal activity hanging out in that location) that are preventing crime, rather than the statue itself. It's eyes on the street.

However, while we're all patting Buddha and the installer on the back for putting this up, I'm pretty uncomfortable with putting a religious shrine on the public median. If this guy had put it on his lawn, that's one thing, but this feels different. If you put a statue of Mary in the middle of the street any number of my relatives would show up with flowers and prayer cards and maybe even hang out to pray. Does that make it ok to put up Christian religious symbols on public land?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:55 AM on September 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Buddha has the magic power to turn correlation into causation!
posted by FatherDagon at 11:58 AM on September 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


(You don't even want to know what's been happening around the statues I've been putting up...)
posted by FatherDagon at 11:59 AM on September 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


There's a family in my town who puts up a creche in our town square every year, a few feet away from the giant menorah that someone else puts up. I love this stuff, and the only law needed that I can see is "don't be an ass"... but someone eventually will, with their colandars and pentagrams, and down it will all have to come.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:59 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Big deal, let me know when he appears on a tortilla

Since the historical Buddha insisted that his followers never make or worship any images or depictions of him, I somehow doubt he'd be pulling those kinds of miracles even if he could... The fact that people make statues to him now would probably not sit well with Gotama. But hey, on the other hand, he'd probably agree with this idea: Skillful means = Whatever works.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:00 PM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Buddha has the magic power to turn correlation into causation!

Deep belief in cause and effect, FatherDagon.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:03 PM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


the only law needed that I can see is "don't be an ass"... but someone eventually will, with their colandars and pentagrams, and down it will all have to come.

Why?
posted by sparklemotion at 12:08 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ladies of the evening

I imagine fabulous women in elegant dresses sipping martinis in a ballroom somewhere.
posted by echocollate at 12:13 PM on September 17, 2014 [11 favorites]


"Listen to them. The ladies of the evening. What music they make!"
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:23 PM on September 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


And - just to be cranky - what is the ACLU's take on this one?

Probably something along the lines of: "Here, read this pamphlet on state action and call us when there's an actual problem."
posted by The Bellman at 12:39 PM on September 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


If you put a statue of Mary in the middle of the street any number of my relatives would show up with flowers and prayer cards and maybe even hang out to pray. Does that make it ok to put up Christian religious symbols on public land?

If the local community is happy with it and leaves offerings or prayers, why not? In communities where a Christian statue wouldn't be appreciated, nobody would put one up in the first place, or if they did, it would receive enough complaints to be taken down. This Buddha seems to have had one complaint two years ago; and its mere presence isn't harming anyone.
posted by Rangi at 12:50 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


It could have been a statue of anything -- what's key is that this is an example of the broken windows theory in action.

Once it looked like people cared about the area, crime went down.

In an anonymous, urban environment, with few or no other people around, social norms and monitoring are not clearly known. Individuals thus look for signals within the environment as to the social norms in the setting and the risk of getting caught violating those norms; one of those signals is the area's general appearance.

Under the broken windows theory, an ordered and clean environment – one which is maintained – sends the signal that the area is monitored and that criminal behavior will not be tolerated. Conversely, a disordered environment – one which is not maintained (broken windows, graffiti, excessive litter) – sends the signal that the area is not monitored and that one can engage in criminal behavior with little risk of detection.

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:23 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


>Probably something along the lines of

Of course if I had bothered to look...
posted by IndigoJones at 2:10 PM on September 17, 2014


There's a Virgin de Guadalupe materializing out of a Raiders logo in my part of East Oakland, but it doesn't seem to have had much effect on crime at all.

Well played, Buddha - you win this round.
posted by Pecinpah at 2:53 PM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Umm… The Broken Windows Theory of Policing is a neo-conservative idea about how do deal with endemic, unfixable urban failure
The Broken Windows theory magically reverses the well understood causal relationship between crime and poverty, arguing that poverty and social disorganization are the result of, not the cause of, crime and that the disorderly behavior of the growing "underclass" threatens to destroy the very fabric of cities.
It's about how to exert control of the unruly, irredeemable underclasses on behalf of property owners.

It's also why Eric Garner was throttled to death by a uniformed cop for the crime of selling individual cigarettes. Because the anti-social underclass can't be left w/out discipline, else havoc would be unleashed.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 3:04 PM on September 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Just read the Wikipedia article. Plenty of fodder for and against. You don't need to check me as a racist neo-con, OK?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:57 PM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you put a statue of Mary in the middle of the street any number of my relatives would show up with flowers and prayer cards and maybe even hang out to pray. Does that make it ok to put up Christian religious symbols on public land?

The popular history of Capilla de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe was community maintained for decades; people would supposedly just show up and fix the roof when it leaked, stuff like that. It's not really public land, though I think that until recently who owned it was sort of dubious. It seems to be privately owned now, since they're renting it out for weddings and stuff, but the non-denominational nature of it (it's not on concecrated ground), the lunar calendar window, the general spiritual feel of the place and the ghost rumors tend to draw a pretty diverse crowd, and it's a pretty beloved local landmark.
posted by NoraReed at 4:38 PM on September 17, 2014


stupidsexyflanders, let "don't be an ass" be the whole of the law.
posted by sneebler at 5:38 PM on September 17, 2014


IndigoJones: Of course if I had bothered to look...

Note that link goes to the ACLJ web site, not the ACLU web site. The ACLJ is a Conservative Christian legal foundation founded by Pat Robertson as an explicit "counter" to the ACLU.
posted by verb at 8:16 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wait, I'm confused. Are there two of these? I thought I saw it at 12th and E20th?

Thanks for posting this Lexica. I was wondering about the backstory...
posted by latkes at 10:51 PM on September 17, 2014


Wait, I'm confused. Are there two of these? I thought I saw it at 12th and E20th?

Yes; the one you saw went up a few months ago. There is also a Little Free Library on that corner which seems to have fallen into disuse.

Now there are two. There are two shrines.
posted by aws17576 at 11:27 PM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


(You don't even want to know what's been happening around the statues I've been putting up...)

Excellent. May you be among the blessed first to die!
posted by malocchio at 7:25 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Ladies of the evening"? Really?

It's a classier version of women of the night, and slightly skankier than the dames of dinnertime.
posted by forgetful snow at 7:54 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's always "The working girls 5 blocks away on International, down by the methadone clinic & the Elementary school on Foothill".
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:34 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


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