COLUMBUS (WCMH) – City leaders and community members are hoping the return of some summer programming will help cut down on the city’s violence.
Columbus is on pace to have more homicides this year than ever before, and the city wants to stop that from happening.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther has talked about more plans to keep children busy over the summer, and one summer program making its return is aiming to do just that.
Last summer, there wasn’t a lot that could be done because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, however, with the pandemic seeming to ease, some of those programs are returning.
One of those programs is Late Night Basketball, with Woodward Park being one of the recreation centers where it will be offered.
The goal is to give kids and young adults something positive to do.
In about a month, Late Night Basketball will be back in Columbus, with players across the city taking the courts between 6 and 11 p.m.
“It gives them something positive, it gives them something constructive, it gives them something safe,” said Sir Gregory Powell, center manager with Columbus Recreation and Parks.
Powell has been involved with the Late Night Basketball program since it started in 2013. He’s heard from a lot of kids saying they missed it last summer and that the lessons learned off the court are just as, if not more, important than the lessons learned on the court.
“There’s a lot of wisdom being passed around from the older generation to the youth,” he said. “If I can give the youth something that I’ve been through to help them out to maybe make a better choice in life, that’s also kind of what it’s about.”
In a year when violence is ravaging the city, the lessons are even more important. According to Columbus Police, there have been 67 homicides so far this year. Compare that to 37 through this time last year and an average of 32 over the past four years. Almost half of this year’s homicides have been solved, according to police.
“This is a joint effort and the only way we can solve these crimes is when the police and the community work together,” said Sgt. Joe Albert, public information officer with the Columbus Division of Police.
Powell said Late Night Basketball has also been a time for kids and young adults to build relationships with police. Along with many other efforts, he hopes the program can do its part to keep kids safe and slow the violence.
“If everyone does a little, no one has to do a lot,” he said. “It gives them something positive to do. We all know things have been happening, but Late Night Basketball gives the youth something positive to do instead of the latter.”
The free Late Night Basketball program starts June 4. To sign up, click here.