A non-religious man in Oakland managed to virtually eliminate neighborhood crime with nothing more than a statue of Buddha bought from a local hardware store.
The neighborhood of 11th Avenue and East 19th Street was formerly a rough part of Oakland, riddled with a variety of illegal activities ranging from littering and vandalization to drug dealing, robberies, prostitution, and assaults. That is until one local, Dan Stevenson, purchased a 60-cm-tall stone statue of Buddha and placed it on the street corner opposite his home.
People were constantly dumping mattresses, couches and other junk there, and all kind of shady characters would hang around, so he figured the statue would be an improvement. But, in this case, calling the effect of the statue an improvement would be a gross understatement.
“I would have stuck Christ up there if he would have kept the mattresses off,” Stevenson jokingly told Oakland North. “Except Christ is so controversial with people. Buddha is a neutral dude. ”
Initially, he had merely hoped that the presence of the figure would bring a sense of serenity to the troubled neighborhood, or, at the very least, make people think twice before littering . What Stevenson certainly didn’t expect was the Buddha statue to create a ripple effect that would result in the utter transformation of his neighborhood.
First, the littering stopped, much to the delight of most residents, but then something even more remarkable happened – locals started cleaning up the trash that was already there. Drug dealers and prostitutes started migrating away from the area as well, and vandals stopped painting graffiti on walls. Soon, local Vietnamese immigrants in the neighborhood began flocking to the statue, bringing offerings of fruit, garlands, and sticks of incense. Eventually, a neighbor named Vina Vo and her son Cuc Vo approached Stevenson with the request that they could care for the statue, to which he agreed.
First, they built a small platform for the Buddha to sit on and began to maintain the area around him.