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Youth basketball league cuts down on crime, expanding to SE community

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - A local basketball league focusing on at-risk youth is expanding in the Star City.

The Lea Youth Outdoor Basketball League started in the Melrose area of Roanoke City and helped decrease crime.

Organizers hope to have the same result in other parts of the city. 

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It's a game of basketball that's about more than what happens on the court. Councilman Sherman Lea says the league is more about the "Quality Time" discussions they have during the middle of practice that includes messages about how to be a good citizen.

"Basketball is only the vehicle, Lea said. "What we want to do is to reach young people and help them develop a positive relationship with the police department."

The Lea Youth Outdoor Basketball League was started in Melrose, an area that has the highest crime rate in Roanoke. Community Resource Officer Joshua Johnson says the goal is giving children there a positive way to spend their time.

"Those are the kids that may have some sort of push- pull factors in their life, whether they are having a hard time in school, or they have something going on at the home life or negative influences with the other kids," Johnson said. "So those are a lot of kids we want to reach out to.

"One of the things that I committed to is if it worked, I wanted to spread it across our city," Lea said.

And it more than worked. It was an experience that Johnson calls incredible. He says they initially planned to only have about 75 kids involved, but that soon turned in to more than 200.

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Games were scheduled during the week at peak times of crime reported. Officer Johnson says crime in that neighborhood dropped 29%

"They can change their life around. They can find something productive to do and that is important to them," Johnson said.

The leagues next stop is in Southeast Roanoke. A neighborhood that community leader  and president of the Southeast action community forum Terry Huxhold says desperately needs it.

"The one thing I hear from people in this community all of the time is 'we need something for our youth to do that will keep them out of trouble. This is one good way to get that started here," Huxhold said.

Registration begins Saturday April 23 at both Melrose and Fallon Park in Roanoke.

The LYOB is in need of volunteers and donations. To donate, checks can be out to the Lea Youth Outdoor Basketball League.

Mail to:

Director of Basketball Operations

James W. Lynch

P.O. Box 2121

Roanoke, VA 24009

For more information call 540-627-0675. The LYOB is open to all youths living within the Roanoke Valley who are between the ages of 11-18.


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