NEW ORLEANS - Crime is unfortunately no stranger to the New Orleans East neighborhood near the corner of Reynes and Warfield Streets.
There have been three shootings in the area since the beginning of the year, including a murder there Monday night. Neighbors are reluctant to let their kids play outside because of the violence.
"The kids are afraid to play because they don't know who's going to pass by and shoot," one neighbor said. "It's dangerous for the children to walk the street. It's dangerous for me to go to the store."
"What are you going to do, let your kid out there and then go bury him the next day?" neighbor Lou Murray asked. "The shootings and just hearing the sirens of the police and ambulances spooks the little kids around here."
These grandparents are not alone in their concerns for children's safety in neighborhoods where crime, blight and graffiti are pervasive. A study by the LSU New Orleans School of Public Health shows that parents who have fears about their neighborhood were more likely to restrict their child's outdoor play time.
"They may not let their kids go out and play on their own," said lead LSUSPH researcher Maura Kepper," PhD. "They may not let them play in the nearby playground without supervision maybe not even in their front yard."
Senior author Melinda Sothern, PhD, added that a lack of outdoor play could affect a child's healthy development, because exercise is so important.
"It decreases your chances of developing a mental health disorder," Sothern said. "It decreases your chance of developing heart disease, diabetes. It reduces your chance of developing ADHD, Attention Deficit Disorder. It improves your performance in school."
Kepper also noted nearly 60 percent of the children in their study were either overweight or obese.
"We have high crime rates and we do live in an urban area where access to places to play is always a barrier for our population," Kepper said. "We also have high physical inactivity and high obesity rates in our children, so this is a very pertinent issue for our community."
Researchers recommend if parents have safety concerns about letting their kids play outside, take them to a park or playground and make sure they get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day.