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Akron offering 'midnight' basketball to reduce violence

Posted at 5:13 PM, Feb 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-20 18:28:54-05

The city of Akron is bringing back a "midnight basketball league" as one possible solution to address the problem of youth violence.

"Youth violence is a serious public health issue in our city. It is a community problem and the city will not be able to solve it alone nor overnight," said Mayor Dan Horrigan, who announced the new league during his state of the city address Wednesday afternoon.

The midnight league will actually run from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Mason Park Community Center starting in June and will last eight weeks. City leaders are hoping to expand it beyond the summer.

Details regarding signing up on-line will be revealed at a later date. The program will be open to young men ages 16 to 33.

Last June, News 5 reported on a $22,500 grant the city of Akron received from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services to analyze crime and other data.

Project Ujima, which is based out of a church on South Hawkins Avenue, also played a major role in the study.

According to statistics provided in the grant, 191 juveniles were arrested where a firearm was present from 2014 to 2016.

During the same time period, 6,128 Akron police reports were taken where juveniles were listed as victims of various crimes.

Kenneth Littlejohn, the safety coordinator for the recreation department, last played in a similar midnight basketball league in 2008. He believes bringing it back will he help get young men off the streets, on a basketball court and away from potential criminal activity.

Littlejohn said motivational speakers will also address the players and there will be discussions about job opportunities.

"It was a part of me pretty much giving back to where I came from, helping these other guys. It wasn't just about basketball. It's about livelihood," Littlejohn said.