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Police are swapping the criminal court for the basketball court in a project aimed at inspiring children and helping to steer them away from a life of crime.
The Positive Futures programme is using sport as a way to engage youngsters at risk of being involved in antisocial and criminal behaviour.
Two officers have teamed up with a basketball pro to run sessions for kids aged 8 to 14 - providing mentoring and helping develop important life skills.
Across the next two months, more than 30 youngsters from St Andrews Play Association – a youth club based in Walnut Street, Leicester – are taking part in the programme, led by local neighbourhood officers’ PCs Millie Barton and Carley Johnson, Leicester Riders player Mo Walker and staff from the Leicester Riders Foundation.
PC Millie Barton said: “St Andrews Play Association is a youth club on my neighbourhood beat. Many kids from the local area attend so I am excited to offer this programme to them and continue to build a positive relationship with the young people in our community.
“For the past few years the Leicester Riders Foundation have been instrumental in engaging young people – offering support, education and early intervention to assist in reducing criminal activity in the Leicester area. Having them in involved, alongside Mo, will provide so many benefits and opportunities for those involved.”
Funded by StreetGames, the sessions are run twice a week and will be a mix of basketball training and games, as well as life skills classes.
It is hoped they will provide the group withthe foundations to help make positive choices about their futures, as well as build good relationships with police.
Growing up in Canada the Riders forward was lucky to have positive role models who helped him to achieve his dream of becoming a professional basketball player.
Now in his fourth season with the team, Mo has made Leicester his home and is passionate about helping local kids to achieve their potential.
He said: “Growing up in my community there was a lot of violence and distractions. I was fortunate enough to have positive role models and structure provided by my parents and basketball coaches.
“I know how important it is for kids to have positive influencers in their lives, as well as some structure or just a safe place where they can have fun, interact with others, and stay out of trouble.”
Ricardo Silva, the foundation’s community project officer, added: “The programme will allow all the participants to gain a variety experiences and we hope to use our knowledge and experience to help them develop their life skills.
“I want the Leicester Riders Foundation to be a point of contact for kids at risk of involvement with antisocial behaviour, crime and violence. We are here to provide opportunities for young people to grow and develop.”
Assistant Chief Constable Adam Streets said: “This week we are celebrating our neighbourhood officers as part of Neighbourhood Policing Week and programmes like this really highlight the value local officers bring to our communities.
“A huge thank you and well done should go to PCs Barton and Johnson, Mo Walker and the Leicester Riders Foundation for their effort in getting this project off the ground - providing opportunity to proactively and positively engage with young people in their neighbourhood to help build trust and confidence.”