|Did James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, envision a day when his game would play an integral role in the war on crime in America?|
Indianapolis will spend $1.1 million to build or improve outdoor basketball courts in parks across the city, including the creation of a new Westside court named after Indiana Fever player Tamika Catchings.
The citywide project will be funded through a private-public partnership, city officials announced Tuesday, involving the Indianapolis Parks Foundation, Indianapolis Power & Light Co. and the Pacers Foundation, in addition to city government.
Work will be completed over the next five years, Mayor Greg Ballard said at a news conference at Thatcher Park on the Westside. The effort will cover about half of the outdoor basketball court improvements needed throughout the parks system, he said.
“This public-private partnership is a testament to our ability to work together to achieve a better quality of life for our community,” Ballard said.
An IPL executive said her company believes in the project.
“As one of the most frequently used amenities in parks, outdoor basketball courts encourage healthy lifestyles, deter crime and offer an alternative for our at-risk youth and young adults,” said Kelly Huntington, IPL’s senior vice president and CFO.
The city is contributing $500,000 to the project, Ballard said. The other partners are contributing the rest. Officials are not divulging exactly how the rest is broken down by contributor.
Read Kelly Huntington's quote one more time:
Officials hope to raise additional money to build and refurbish additional courts across the city.
“As one of the most frequently used amenities in parks, outdoor basketball courts encourage healthy lifestyles, deter crime and offer an alternative for our at-risk youth and young adults,” said Kelly Huntington, IPL’s senior vice president and CFO.Dr. James Naismith's game sure has evolved into one of the only effective law enforcement and city hall has at their disposal to deter crime and ensure safe streets for the tax-payer.
Or do they?
In the city of Chicago, the opposite strategy has been deployed [Basketball controversies: In the name of protecting kids, there's a movement to take their sports equipment away, Chicago Reader, 9-22-2011]:
Shajuan put up a jumper from about 12 feet as his two defenders got ready to grab the rebound. There wasn't one. The shot bounced high off the rim and then fell through.
Shajuan and his friends play regularly at the Oz Park basketball hoops, which are across a field from their school, Lincoln Park High. But earlier this summer, after a couple of fights broke out on the courts, the rims were taken down for a few weeks following school officials' determination that they were a "magnet for trouble."
Though they're back up now, community leaders are still talking about locking them up so no one can use them during or after school—exactly the hours when young people need something to do. Shajuan sees the move as a major overreaction.
"It was all over some trash-talking," he says. "They should keep the rims up."
Though crime numbers have dropped steadily in recent years, concerns about drug dealing, gang activity, and violence are very real in neighborhoods across Chicago.
Residents and officials in a number of them believe getting rid of basketball hoops can help. They say that not only do fights break out frequently on the courts, but gangbangers try to recruit younger members or deal drugs under the guise of waiting for the next game.
Then again—these are places where people play basketball.
The debate over whether basketball courts attract violence—or whether they're simply blamed because people are afraid of the young men of color they see playing ball—has been going on for years. Once nearly ubiquitous in parks and playgrounds, outdoor hoops are now limited to a fraction of city schools and fewer than half of city parks.
"We receive many more requests to install, upgrade, or replace park equipment than requests to remove it," says Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Park District. "However, we have removed park equipment at the overwhelming requests of community members and/or aldermen."Odd that public tennis courts rarely attract the same criminal element, or are built to deter 'at-risk' youth from engaging in a life of crime.
So which one is it? Do basketball courts in heavily black cities/communities/neighborhoods cut crime or increase crime?
Better yet: would starting an LLC or a non-profit that built basketball courts in urban environments be an immediate financial success?