EDITORIAL: Talk is fine, action is better

York Dispatch
  • While York seeks money for an anti-crime program, how about something as simple as basketball?
  • In the 1990s, midnight basketball programs were lauded as a way to curb inner-city crime.

Often, the best way to fix a problem is a discussion that leads to a plan or strategy for attacking the issue. Reasoned thinking and solid planning are almost always the better way to resolve an issue than knee-jerk reactions.

TeamCatchUp and Team Drew Wright compete during the Trey & Boo Classic Basketball Tournament at Penn Park in York City, Sunday, June 26, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

But talk, as they say, is cheap, and when it comes to the issue of violence in York City, it’s time to act.

The local chapter of the NAACP held a June 28 forum on violence in the city, during which panel members spoke at length, and many in attendance also talked about the "root causes" of violence in the city and what can be done about it.

A few ideas found general consensus. They touched on topics the panelists said the community needs to improve on and others that the government and schools — "the system" — needs to do better.

We couldn’t agree more. So ... now what?

Forum seeks answers for York City violence

For all the talk, we heard little in the way of clear steps the community members intend to take.

We know where Mayor Kim Bracey's administration is leaning.

City officials intend to adopt a $300,000 plan that will change the way the police department goes after gang violence. The "group violence intervention" program aims to cut down on gang and youth violence by providing the means for gang members to get out of that lifestyle — and promising tough consequences if they don't take it,

It was developed by noted criminologist David M. Kennedy, author of "Don't Shoot: One Man, a Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America" and "Deterrence and Crime Prevention: Reconsidering the Prospect of Sanction.”

York City moves toward policing reform plan

Bracey said the price tag for the three-year program from the National Network for Safe Communities will work out to about $100,000 a year. Right now, cities including Baltimore, Chicago, Oakland and New Orleans are implementing Kennedy's programs.

While the city raises the money to bring Kennedy aboard, we would like to suggest an idea that's cheaper, a bit of a throwback, and that could be launched right away.

Why not try midnight basketball?

In the 1990s, midnight basketball programs were lauded as a way to curb inner-city crime in the U.S. by keeping urban youth engaged in sports as well as education and job training. Though the programs became fodder for critics who saw them as wasteful government spending, a 2006 study by University of Minnesota sociologist Douglas Hartmann and Elon University economist Brooks Depro showed that property crime rates fell more rapidly in cities that were early adopters of the original midnight basketball model than in other American cities in the same period.

Additionally, midnight basketball programs are reasonably cheap to operate. By way of comparison, the recent two-day Trey & Boo Classic basketball tournament, which attracted 1,000 spectators and participants, raised $2,250 from an Internet-based GoFundMe campaign.

That’s as grassroots as it gets and doesn’t include donations from corporate sponsors or local businesses.

Trey & Boo Classic tournament a go for June

We suspect sponsorship of a midnight basketball program could draw a few checks from civic-minded companies to fund something with proven results like a community basketball league.

It's something, and it's worth a shot, at least.