How A Buddha Statue Cleaned Up A California Neighborhood

“Let my skin and sinews and bones dry up, together with all the flesh and blood of my body! I welcome it! But I will not move from this spot until I have attained the supreme and final wisdom.” —Gautama Buddha

In a Nutshell

Dan Stevenson is probably the most peaceful vigilante on the planet. His neighborhood was full of drug dealers and sex workers, and people were turning his street into an illegal garbage dump. Fed up with the crime, he fought back in the strangest way imaginable: by setting up a statue of Buddha.

The Whole Bushel

Dan Stevenson is a pretty patient guy. For the past 40 years, he’s lived in the Oakland neighborhood of Eastlake, and for most of his life, he’s been dealing with crime. Eastlake was full of drug dealers, sex workers, and graffiti artists who loved showing off their handiwork. Burglars made themselves at home in other people’s houses, and Dan was even mugged on a few occasions. But for the most part, he just ignored it. After all, what could he do?

Then people started dumping garbage. The city had set up a traffic diverter in front of his house, and soon people were using the median as their own little junkyard. People dropped off beat-up dresses, used mattresses, and all sorts of trash. Soon, it was spilling everywhere, and Dan Stevenson had finally had enough. He tried calling the city, but when that didn’t work, he went to a nearby hardware store and bought Buddha.

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Well, it was a Buddha statue, made out of concrete and standing 60 centimeters (2 ft) tall. Dan’s plan was to put the relic on the median strip, and maybe, just maybe, it would ward off the dumpers. Now, it’s important to know that Dan isn’t a Buddhist. He just figured that maybe a peaceful Buddha statue might cause people to think twice about tossing their trash in front of his house. And to make sure nobody stole it, he anchored the Buddha to a concrete slab with the help of some epoxy and a reinforced iron bar.

Four months later, the rituals began. Every morning at 7:00 AM, Buddhists from the local Vietnamese community would visit the Buddha and pray. They’d leave all sorts of gifts like fruit, coins, and candles. They built the Buddha his own house and painted the statue gold. They even started bringing gifts to Dan’s house, everything from candy to whiskey. And on top of drawing the faithful, the Buddha statue also attracts a surprising number of tourists.

Even stranger, Dan’s plan actually worked. People stopped dumping their garbage. Then the drug dealers and prostitutes disappeared. Thieves went to find another neighborhood, and according to the San Francisco Chronicle, crime in the area has dropped 82 percent since 2012. You know, maybe every neighborhood should try Dan Stevenson’s Zen-like approach.

Show Me The Proof

Criminal: He’s Neutral
San Francisco Chronicle: Buddha seems to bring tranquility to Oakland neighborhood