NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The City of Norfolk and the police department are hosting a “Shoot Hoops Not Guns” basketball tournament this weekend.
It’s the fifth year of the event and was started in hopes of giving young men an alternative outlet.
“It’s a way to get our youth involved in an alternative move of engagement so we can keep them off the streets, keep them uninvolved in crime or anything that’s not good for our community, and give them engaging methods to be a part of the livelihood and great things our city has to offer,” said Lauryn Johnson, who works for the Department of Neighborhood Development.
The event comes just days after police arrested a 14-year-old for a double shooting on Cary Avenue.
Police were called to the scene around 2 p.m. on Wednesday for a gunshot disturbance.
They found two 16-year-olds injured.
The juvenile suspect has been charged with two counts of malicious wounding, two counts of use of a firearm, possession of a firearm by juvenile, burglary, and grand larceny.
He’s being held at the Norfolk Detention Center.
“When you sit out here and create programs to give them something to get involved with, engaged with, it crushes you,” said Officer Samuel Nellum.
Nellum is a lifelong Norfolk resident and has served on the police department for more than 20 years.
He’s one of seven first responders who will be coaching at this weekend’s tournament.
It’s his fifth year and he says he’s seen how it positively impacts players, who are ages 15-29.
“It gives them a chance to see you can come together with other young men from other areas and it’s not about something negative. It can be about something positive,” he said.
Nellum says it builds positive relationships with law enforcement by giving players a chance to interact with them personally.
It also helps build bridges in other communities that may not get along with each other, Nellum said.
“You have to put down the guns. We have to understand another young man’s life is valuable. Your life is valuable,” he said.
Events like this give the youth an option to stay off the street by interacting with law enforcement but Nellum says it’s not just up to them to reach out and make a difference.
Parents must too if we want real change.
“We have to sit down and educate our kids on the violence of gun usage. It’s everyone’s part. Everyone has to get involved,” he said.
And if playing basketball isn’t for you, the city has other programs.
Johnson says there’s the “Lock In to Lock Out Crime” event that gives teens a number of activities to participate, and Generational Changes Initiative, which gives youth a seat at the table to voice their opinions and concerns about the future of Norfolk.
“They’re citizens too. Just because they’re young, they need ways to really contribute to the livelihood and vibe of the city of Norfolk,” she said.
For more information on these programs, you can visit www.norfolk.gov/.
The “Shoot Hoops, Not Guns” Basketball Tournament starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, August 4. It is being held at Maury High School. Tip off for the championship game is expected to start around 4 p.m.