Raleigh police keep kids out of trouble through sports
Posted August 14, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — When 13-year-old Keyshawn Gregory was shot and killed, it upset many - including Raleigh's Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown.
“When you have young folk who die in situations like we recently had, sure, it's devastating for the entire community,” Deck-Brown said. “It impacts us. We’re human, and all lives do matter.”
She said many young people don't understand that violence in real life is permanent, not like in a video game.
“When you really do pull a trigger, you don't get to re-start that game,” said Deck-Brown.
Police officers are now coaching and mentoring girls from high-crime neighborhoods in a game they can restart -soccer.
“We have a robust youth and family services program that really is focused on steering kids in the right direction,” said Deck-Brown.
The Raleigh Police Department’s Youth and Family Service’s Unit runs a variety of sports camps and after-school activities for boys and girls ages 11 to 16.
“We have to start early, and intervention makes all the difference,” said Deck-Brown.
Participant Amy Nunez said that if she wasn’t playing soccer, she would probably just stay at home, lying in bed.
On the field, she keeps active and has learned a valuable lesson about law enforcement.
“Don't be scared of police. They're pretty nice,” said Nunez.
Officer Vincent Espinoza, a coach with the program, knows firsthand that this approach works.
“I was given the opportunity to also play in sports, and that kept me away from gangs and drugs,” he said.
Deck-Brown said everyone must work together to help children.
“I think it's going to take many of us in the greater community to keep our kids on the right track,” said Deck-Brown.
For some kids, that track might just include a badge.
“Hopefully someone at age 21 will decide that because of somebody, I now want to be a police officer,” said Deck-Brown.