RICHMOND, Va. -- Former Los Angeles Laker and Richmond native Andre Ingram is back in Richmond playing basketball in an effort to bring safety to the streets of his hometown.
RVA Safer Streets basketball games have been going on in Richmond since 2017. Richmond Police sponsor the games in an effort to young adults from different neighborhoods familiar with each other.
"We've got to take care of ourselves and take care of our communities," Ingram said. "It's much bigger than basketball. Keeping our streets safe, keeping our guys safe, that's really the most important thing being here."
The program brings young adults from across the city to Hotchkiss Field on E. Brookland Park Boulevard.
"What we are trying to do inside of the gymnasium is make it contagious when they go back to their communities," Paul Taylor, who co-founded RVA Safer Streets, said. "They go back home and may have beef with another neighborhood, but say, 'Yo, I played ball with him and he's not that bad.'"
RVA Safer Streets is not just about crossovers and fast breaks.
"We've adopted a model that says no workshop, no jump shot," Taylor said. "Before they get on the court, we talk about problem-solving, conflict resolution and critical thinking. It's our way of bringing prison to the guys so they don't have to go to prison to get it."
While violent crime is up in parts of Richmond, Police Chief Gerald Smith is a big believer in the program.
"It works! We do have some crime in some of these neighborhoods, but what would that violent crime look like without these two guys running this league and bringing these factions together to talk, play ball with each other," Chief Smith said. "It's hard to commit a crime against someone you play basketball with."