City leaders hope basketball program will help curb violence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A rise in temperatures outside often leads to a rise in violence in cities as more people are out and about. After a violent weekend in Providence, city leaders are hoping to keep residents safe by instituting a number of programs this summer.

Mayor Jorge Elorza and other officials held a news conference Tuesday to announce the long-awaited return of the Midnight Basketball League, which will be played on courts throughout Providence.

The plan to bring back midnight basketball was in the works long before this past weekend, where the city saw two men killed, another injured in a shooting, and more shots fired early Tuesday morning.

Everyone from residents to police hope the sudden increase violence is a blip in the stats, rather than the start of a trend.

“Obviously we don’t like to see any acts of violence, so the timing is perfect for us,” said Providence Police Chief Col. Hugh Clements. “We have this, along with a couple of other programs we’re looking to roll out this summer, and it’s necessary to create programs and opportunities for the young men and women in the communities.”

The idea is to give young residents a positive alternative to hanging out on street corners and potentially being at the wrong place at the wrong time. City leaders hope to reach those residents on the cusp of bad decisions and convince them to turn to their community for guidance.

“We are targeting that kid. We are targeting the 18-plus youth that would usually just be hanging around and with the idle mind, we all know what happens with that. This is more than basketball,” said Kobi Dennis from Project Night Vision.

“A lot of young people throughout our city, they either don’t feel that support or they don’t know where to turn to for that support,” the mayor added. “This is a way for us to bring folks in and say this is available. This is here specifically for you.”

The league will reach out to entire families, and alongside the courts there will be city leaders recruiting residents into programs to help them with everything from education to employment.

“We will have our folks right here in the community, signing folks up and connecting them to those opportunities,” said Elorza. “This is an opportunity in itself, If anyone sees it as an end in itself, then you’re seeing it in too much of a limiting of a way.”

The league will be open to anyone 18 and older.

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