Not every Hannibal youngster that likes playing basketball has a ball of their own. The Police Department hopes to change that by giving away close to 100 balls at events over the next few weeks.
The regulation-sized basketballs come with an HPD logo and “Hannibal Police Department” printed on white panels.
“They’re really decent basketballs. We’ve been impressed,” said HPD Chief Lyndell Davis. “In fact, some of the officers would like them for their own kids.”
Approximately 20 balls will be given away Thursday, Aug. 15, during the grand opening of the Willow Street Park playground, located behind Willow Street Church. The event will begin at 6 p.m.
Another 50 will be distributed between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, during the Scott’s Chapel United Methodist Church’s annual block party in the 1800 block of Hope Street.
By giving away basketballs during these events, Davis is hopeful it will allow youngsters to see officers in a different light.
“A lot of the children in that area only see police in an enforcement mode,” he said. “This is just one of many opportunities that we try to do to show children that the police aren’t always down here in an enforcement mode.”
More basketballs, which were purchased with donated money from the HPD’s Community Education Fund, could be given away in the future.
“If it goes over well we’ll do this in other neighborhoods throughout the year,” said Davis.
The idea for giving away basketballs sprang from a review of HPD responses. Davis noted that a number of calls, particularly during the summer, came when youngsters set up portable goals in the street and used the pavement for their court.
“The only thing these kids were doing is playing basketball, but they’re having to do it in the wrong spot,” he said. “Then we’d have to come down and be kind of the bad guy and run them off.”
When Davis learned from Andy Dorian, director of the Parks & Recreation Department, that the Willow Street would be receiving a face-lift, he decided that giving away basketballs in that area would support one of the DARE program’s positive alternatives - physical activity.
“Hopefully they can put them to good use with their new playground down there,” said the HPD chief.