Muskegon hopes to curb violence through basketball

Muskegon County

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — On Saturday evening, two teams assembled to play a game much deeper than basketball.

The police chiefs from Muskegon Heights Police Department and Muskegon Public Safety traded in their badges for the night to be coaches for two teams at Muskegon Heights High School.

The game was organized by local organization Gaining Unity Through Nonviolent Solutions or G.U.N.S. It’s a part of an effort to end gun violence in local neighborhoods.

Local athletes and Harlem Globetrotters players made up the teams. Reality TV stars Tabius Tate from “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta” and Sire Haulcy of “The Rap Game” participated as well.

“This is about the gun violence and the unity in our community and getting together,” said Chief Jeffrey Lewis with Muskegon Public Safety. “Each and every time we have an event of gun violence, we’re there. We want the community to know we’re aware of it and we’ll work with them to end this.”

This year, there have been numerous shootings in both Muskegon and Muskegon Heights, including a drive-by in June and an officer-involved shooting in July.

“It’s just a lot of craziness going on,” said Arien McDaniel.

McDaniel grew up in the area and says it’s changed a lot since he was a kid.

“We all say how we want to stay close-knit as a community and as a family and at the same time, we’re killing each other,” McDaniel said.

Police say events like these help them to get to know their community, which makes policing a lot easier.

“We can’t arrest our way out of this,” Lewis added. “We’re networking and we’re getting to know these people and that makes a huge difference.”

Police say it also helps the community to see officers as human beings.

“They get to see us in another role. A lot of people think that we’ve done nothing in our life except be police officers. We’re athletes, we’re fathers, we’re grandfathers,” said Chief Joseph Thomas with the Muskegon Heights Police Department.

Police say this is just the first step of many.

The organizers of the event say they’re already planning to host another basketball game next year, in addition to similar events throughout the year.

They say they hope to have an even better turn out then.

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