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City residents, police come together at Voni Grimes Gym
Kids and adults were lined up in the middle of Voni Grimes Gym on Saturday to play a game of knockout. Among a line of about a dozen players, two people stood out — a pair of York City Police officers.
The officers were there to show their department's support for the Shooting 4 Peace York organization, an initiative to bridge the gap between police and the community.
"I actually loved that," said LaQuinn Thompson, of York City. "This is what the kids need to see."
Saturday was an instructional event for kids to learn from local basketball players as part of the initiative. Thompson, a former York High player who also played for the Pennsylvania College of Technology, was one of the instructors for the event.
Shooting 4 Peace: Shooting 4 Peace is an anti-violence organization aimed at bringing communities together to benefit youth. Jeff Packard, chair for Shooting 4 Peace York, said it's to help York City.
"We don't want to see any more people die from heroin or bullets," he said.
Packard said the organization is about connecting the city government, law enforcement and youth programs.
"It's not about an individual ... it's about York City," he said.
Saturday's instructional program was a way to get the organization's name out before its April 21 event at William Penn Senior High School, where a game will be held with former professional players and some of York's players.
The organization, which just started this year in York, has gotten some local sponsors for next month's event, according to Packard. The organization is based on an initiative that started in Baltimore.
Police: Patrolmen Chuck Crumpton and Ben Praster were on hand Saturday to show the community that the department supports the initiative.
Crumpton said he liked how the organization was providing instructional opportunities to kids.
"I think it's great," he said.
The two patrolmen's presence was particularly meaningful for Thompson.
Thompson, who is the director of the Youth Center at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, said appearances at events like this one would help build trust between the community and law enforcement.
He said what the officers did would have the "best impact" on the youth.
Another instructor, Raheem McCrary, also of York City, shared similar thoughts.
McCrary, who works at the gym, saw the officers on the sidelines and invited them to join in. He said with kids, it's easier to instill life lessons through games such as basketball, which is something the police could do.
"That's the way to get to them," he said.
McCrary said he would like to see more officers stop by the gym from time to time, even if they're out of uniform.
Going forward: Packard said that in the days leading up to the April 21 event, members of the organization will hold a rally at various York City schools to invite the students.
Packard said organizers are still working on things Shooting 4 Peace York will do after the event.
"We're done with the other kind of shooting — we're shooting for peace," he said.
For more information about April's event, check here.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.