There was basketball, fun and games at the 63rd Precinct Commissioner’s Day of Play on Wednesday, August 31st at Fox Playground, but it was really more about building trust and strengthening good community relationships between neighborhood youth and police.
In a press release issued in January 2020 announcing NYPD Kids First, then Commissioner Shea announced the “establishment of Youth Coordination Officers (YCOs) as well as efforts to leverage underutilized spaces across New York City to engage kids in meaningful ways.”
YCOs Carter and Cintron and other dedicated officers have worked with hundreds of kids over the years. Jump ropes, various balls and lots of games were brought along for the kids, but they favored playing basketball at the park located at Avenue H and East 54th Street.
The officers work as mentors to kids that are referred to them and with neighborhood kids in a way that supports families and helps change lives, keeping kids and communities safer, and by reaching out and intervening in the lives of those who might otherwise choose a wrong path leading to crime, gun violence and incarceration.
“We had some kids that were adolescents and changed their life around; they look to us for mentoring so we try to guide them in the right path and help them,” said Cintron.
Carter’s approach is to build relationships with the parents by letting them know when their kids need attention. “A majority of the time, everyone’s trying to work two, three jobs and a lot of these kids come from single parent homes – or both parents are working and some parents don’t know what their kids are doing, so it’s a complete surprise when they learn what’s going on.”
He said that the parents will sometimes call him and let him know that their kids eventually went to college. “That’s the great moment for us when they’re out on their own and all the things we told them were going to happen did, but they had to make the decision for themselves,” Carter said.
A surprise and fun ending to the game was to see the losers do 15 push-ups as the winning team gloated.