WHITEHALL, Ohio (WCMH) — Several law enforcement agencies in central Ohio have been dealing with teens stealing cars, including the Whitehall Division of Police.

Sgt. Jon Earl said officers deal with it on a daily basis. “In some cases, we’ve had as many as four or five we’ve had to deal with in one single day,” Earl said.

Video from WPD in August showed a stolen car ramming into a police cruiser. Four kids between the ages of 12 and 16 were in the car, according to police. Earl said one of the concerns is that kids involved in vehicle thefts will end up taking part in even more serious crimes.

“What we’re seeing is these kids aren’t just stealing cars. They’re taking these cars and going out, we’re recovering stolen guns or guns in general out of these cars, they’re committing robberies, they’re committing burglaries,” he said.

Police want to prevent crime — and it is part of the reason WPD and others are starting a new effort this summer. The division is working with the city’s parks and recreation department, the African American Male Wellness Agency and others to organize what they’re calling Thursday Night Thriller.

“Everyone returning home safe, coming out here, having fun, hopefully tired from the basketball and the food and music and just going home and being safe instead of looking for something to do and potentially getting in trouble,” organizer Antonio Gordon said of what he wants for the basketball league.

Gordon worked to organize a similar effort in Columbus, and is assisting with the league in Whitehall, which will involve high school players. The hope is those players and others their age come out on Thursday nights and have something positive to engage with, he said.

“My vision is to have this place, to have the parks packed. Have it packed with kids, have it packed with vendors, to really reach out to the community and give back to the community,” Earl said. “There’s more than just the basketball and anti-crime aspect of this, but there’s a lot of things that are going to be a part of this.”

Organizers said there will also be shoe giveaways and free haircuts. The league is scheduled
to take place at John Bishop Park starting in late June.