“On Sunday evening a group of teens gathered in the City of Chester to celebrate the holiday weekend and the end of the school year,” said Delaware County DA Jack Stollsteimer. “Unfortunately, the presence of guns in the crowd turned this gathering into a chaotic and dangerous event. At this point, one juvenile is in critical condition, and five more have non-life threatening injuries. We know at least three guns were fired and over 50 shell casings have been recovered.”
The Race for Peace Committee works to stop events like this before they begin by bringing police officers and the community together. On May 19th the Lower Merion Police Department officers played basketball with local youth to strengthen community bonds. Police and youth at Lower Merion High School Kobe Bryant Gymnasium took off their badges and laced up their sneakers Friday night to play a friendly game of basketball with some of the local youth.
For the eighth straight year, the Race for Peace Committee(RFPC) has organized the basketball game as a good-willed effort to strengthen community ties between police and the youth. The RFPC, made up of law enforcement promoting peace, uses their goals of Communication, understanding, and trust to motivate them to promote peace.
“We greatly appreciate everyone who attended and participated in our basketball event! I believe and support our Race for Peace motto which is that communication, understanding, and trust are forged during times of peace. Not during times of conflict and stress,” said RFPC founder Andrew Howell.
Alim Howell added, “It is a good thing that youth based events are being held consistently especially in today’s times. Citizens may have a different perspective of the police but promoting positivity with police is a solid action.”
He blamed social media for increasing the pressure on teenagers to take part in unsafe or violent activity. “Especially nowadays, with the Millennials and Gen Z, stuff is just so violent, and you would think with social media, with Snapchat, Insta[gram] and TikTok, you would think our youth would be better with less violence and less chaos.”
As for the results, Howell added “when parents and youth leave our event, they are smiling, and they have had a good time with the police officers.”
The goal is to keep brotherhood in the Delaware Valley going, and changing views that young people have about police one shot, one rebound at a time. Other events include Bike Tours, Summits, and Open Forums, all dedicated to creating and fostering enthusiasm and empathy in the community.
“A lot of times we have interactions with people, it’s usually in a professional capacity, a lot of times we’re dealing with people on their worse days,” said Lower Merion Police Lieutenant Shawn Clifford. “When we have an opportunity to come out here and take the uniform off and have a bonding experience where it’s not so much us doing our job, just hanging out playing sports, I think it has a longer lasting effect.”
“During the interviews the kids seem like they have a good time,” said Andrew Howell.
“And while we can’t help what happens outside of a small organization, when the parents and youth leave, they leave with a smile.”