Meditating to Try to Lower Crime Rate

[Source: “Meditating to Try to Lower Crime Rate,” New York Times, 1 August 1993]

By the States News Service
Published: August 01, 1993

THE silence was earsplitting. Less than 100 yards away, cars and buses honked on a busy avenue in a Washington neighborhood known for indiscriminate gunplay. But with eyes closed and minds “floating,” nearly 60 men, women and children concentrated on not concentrating.

Legs crossed, they lined up in rows on a foam pad in a dimly lightedcollege gymnasium. Trying to wipe their minds free of any thoughts, they focused on a silent mantra that only they could hear.

More than 4,000 practitioners of transcendental meditation, including more than 12 Long Islanders, went to Washington on a six-week mission to slash the crime rate in neighborhoods like the one in Washington. “We came to do this experiment, and the experiment is to show that if individuals do this technique, they can positively influence their world,” said Raymond Prohs, 39, of Northport, who started meditating in Washington on June 7. ‘Larger Level of Consciousness’

Mr. Prohs, chairman of the Long Island Capital of the Age of Enlightenment in Northport, said meditation could reduce violence by creating “a powerful influence on the larger level of consciousness.”

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By focusing their electromagnetic brain waves in Washington, the disciples of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi say, they hope to reduce homicide, assault and theft by at least 20 percent. “Preliminary statistics” from the group say violent crime dropped 23.6 percent in the first four weeks. But a spokesman for the police would not comment on that assertion, adding that the murder rate had remained steady. The project ended yesterday.

Scattered about Washington at sites like the Washington Hilton and college campuses, the participants engaged in two daily meditation sessions, which lasted two and a half to four hours.

“What we do as a group together is we create a very powerful influence on the larger level of consciousness,” Mr. Prohs said. “Without going into your house personally, we can affect what goes on in your house.”

He said he had been meditating for 19 years.

By silently focusing on a mantra, meditators say, the mind detaches itself from the thinking process, overcoming thoughts and experiences to reach a stage of “pure consciousness.” In that stage, the advocates add, they are able to direct their energy toward reducing crime.

Bill Graeser, 36, also of Northport, is a “soft-rock” musician and meditation teacher. He said he hoped not only to reduce the crime rate, but also to reap inspiration for his songwriting. Like Mr. Prohs, he is staying at Gallaudet University.

“Everything, every force field in the nation is a part of an underlying intelligence,” said Mr. Graeser, who has been practicing Transcendental Meditiaton for 14 years. “It’s called the washing-machine effect. We’re washing the stress out of the environment.”

Washington was a logical place for the experiment, he said, “because this city is the most important city in America.”

Maharishi International University of Fairfield, Iowa, sponsored the project. Although the director, Dr. John Hagelin, said he had raised $4.2 million, participants not among the 1,000 or so on “scholarship” paid $400 to $900 for room, board, and “course” expenses for two-week stays.

Dr. Hagelin said he would request a $20 million Federal grant for future projects. “This may be the most far-out project we have endorsed, but it may the most important,” he said.

“You raise the whole consciousness, the consciousness is going through the galaxy, every word coming through your mouth is traveling through the galaxy,” said Mila Urana, a homemaker from Fort Salonga who recently returned from a two-week visit. “Everything is positive.”

Effects of Group Practice of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Preventing Violent Crime in Washington, DC: Results of the National Demonstration Project, June-July 1993

[Source: “Effects of Group Practice of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Preventing Violent Crime in Washington, DC: Results of the National Demonstration Project, June-July 1993,” Institute of Science, Technology, and Public Policy, 30 July 1993]

Effects of Group Practice of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Preventing Violent Crime in Washington, DC: Results of the National Demonstration Project, June-July 1993

John S. Hagelin, Maxwell V. Rainforth, David W. Orme-Johnson, Kenneth L. Cavanaugh, Charles N. Alexander, Susan F. Shatkin, John L. Davies, Anne O. Hughes, and Emanuel Ross

This study presents the final results of a two-month prospective experiment to reduce violent crime in Washington, DC. On the basis of previous research it was hypothesized that the level of violent crime in the District of Columbia would drop significantly with the creation of a large group of participants in the Transcendental Meditation® and TM-Sidhi® programs to increase coherence and reduce stress in the District.

This National Demonstration Project to Reduce Violent Crime and Improve Governmental Effectiveness brought approximately 4,000 participants in the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs to the United States national capital from June 7 to July 30, 1993. A 27-member independent Project Review Board consisting of sociologists and criminologists from leading universities, representatives from the police department and government of the District of Columbia, and civic leaders approved in advance the research protocol for the project and monitored its progress.

The dependent variable in the research was weekly violent crime, as measured by the Uniform Crime Report program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; violent crimes include homicide, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery. This data was obtained from the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department for 1993 as well as for the preceding five years (1988-1992). Additional data used for control purposes included weather variables (temperature, precipitation, humidity), daylight hours, changes in police and community anti-crime activities, prior crime trends in the District of Columbia, and concurrent crime trends in neighboring cities. Average weekly temperature was significantly correlated with homicides, rapes and assaults (HRA crimes), as has also been found in previous research; therefore temperature was used as a control variable in the main analysis of HRA crimes. Using time series analysis, violent crimes were analyzed separately in terms of HRA crimes (crimes against the person) and robbery (monetary crimes), as well as together.

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Analysis of 1993 data, controlling for temperature, revealed that there was a highly significant decrease in HRA crimes associated with increases in the size of the group during the Demonstration Project. The maximum decrease was 23.3% when the size of the group was largest during the final week of the project. The statistical probability that this result could reflect chance variation in crime levels was less than 2 in 1 billion (p < .000000002). When a longer baseline is used (1988-1993 data), the maximum decrease was 24.6% during this period (p < .00003). When analyzed as a separate variable, robberies did not decrease significantly, but a joint analysis of both HRA crimes and robberies indicated that violent crimes as a whole decreased significantly to a maximum amount of 15.6% during the final week of the project (p = .0008). Analysis of 1993 data, controlling for temperature, revealed that there was a highly significant decrease in HRA crimes associated with increases in the size of the group during the Demonstration Project.

Several additional analyses were performed on HRA crimes to further assess the strength of the main findings. These indicated that the reduction of HRA crimes associated with the group of participants in the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs could not be attributed to changes in police staffing. These secondary analyses also found that the reduction of HRA crimes was highly robust to alternative specifications of the statistical model-that is, the effect is independent of the isolated details of the models used to assess seasonal cycles and trends. No significant decrease was found in any of the prior five years during this period of time, indicating that this effect was not due to the specific time of year. Furthermore, the intervention parameters for the group size revealed that the effect of the group was not only cumulative with the increase in group size, but also continued for some time after the end of the project.

Based on the results of the study, the steady state gain (long-term effect) associated with a permanent group of 4,000 participants in the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs was calculated as a 48% reduction in HRA crimes in the District of Columbia.

Given the strength of these results, their consistency with the positive results of previous research, the grave human and financial costs of violent crime, and the lack of other effective and scientific methods to reduce crime, policy makers are urged to apply this approach on a large scale for the benefit of society.

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Reference: Hagelin, J.S., Rainforth, M.V., Orme-Johnson, D.W., Cavanaugh, K. L., Alexander, C.N., Shatkin, S.F., Davies, J.L, Hughes, A.O, and Ross, E. 1999. Effects of group practice of the Transcendental Meditation program on preventing violent crime in Washington D.C.: Results of the National Demonstration Project, June-July, 1993. Social Indicators Research, 47(2): 153-201.