NEW ORLEANS (AP) — This city, struggling to reduce its murder rate, will soon launch a midnight basketball program with the help of the New Orleans Hornets professional basketball team, officials said.
Officials hope to keep children off the streets and get them involved in the initiative, which is part of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's "SOS NOLA: Saving Our Sons" anti-crime campaign.
"This is not only a fun recreational activity for young men in New Orleans, but also part of a crime fighting strategy that steers people away from violence and into a safe, positive and competitive environment," Landrieu said in a statement.
Hornets President Hugh Weber said the partnership allows the team the chance to "share our passion for basketball with young men in the New Orleans community, promotes the importance of health and fitness and also provides them with a safe place to develop as athletes and productive citizens."
The program will consist of a series of 5-on-5 tournaments held at the St. Bernard Center from Jan. 14 to March 24 from 8 p.m. to midnight. Participation is free and open to males 18 and older. The league will kick-off on Saturday, Jan. 14. Landrieu will officiate the opening jump ball.
The city has said the midnight basketball program grew out of a crime summit held last September to find solutions to the city's crime problems. Last year, the murder rate jumped by 14 percent in New Orleans with 199 homicides.
Since the summit, the mayor's office said more than 3,000 citizens have gotten involved with Neighborhood Watch trainings, Night Out Against Crime and a mentorship orientation program.
"This is going to take an all hands on deck effort," Landrieu said. "I know if we continue to work as one team, we will be successful."