SWATARA TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — Swatara Township Police are making an impact in the community with the return of their Hoops with Heroes event this Friday. The event has been running for a few years but was sidelined last year due to COVID concerns.
So how does it work? “Hoops with Heroes is a community outreach event hosted by our police department that was created a few years ago. This event is an open invitation to all children ages eight to 16, for them to come out to Swatara Township and play some basketball with a few of our police officers,” Corporal and Community Service Supervisor Brandon Pokrop said.
Players and officers can show off their skills and even win some prizes. “The event features some skill games but mostly consists of either three-on-three or five-on-five basketball games where we have the officers play on the same teams as the children. We have some gift cards that are given out to the winners of the skill games. We will also be grilling some hot dogs and hamburgers along with chips and drinks for those in attendance,” Cpl. Pokrop said.
Hoops with Heroes is an annual event every July but couldn’t run last year and Swatara officers knew it would be a missed opportunity. “It is great to have it back this year as it gives us an opportunity to re-connect with a lot of youth in and around our township, particularly because we did not see a lot of youth this year in the schools due to visitor restrictions,” Cpl. Pokrop said.
Officers do outreach events practically year-round, many of them with children. The impact these events can have is considered crucial and goes a long way in manufacturing a safer community. “Many times we see that children are scared of the police, particularly when they see us in uniform. We have found that a lot of those feelings are due to the fact that they just have not had the opportunity to get to know us on a personal level,” Cpl. Pokrop said.
Sometimes, officers see the results of these events immediately, other times, it’s in the future. “Usually after these events, we see that many of the kids have opened up to our officers and have engaged in friendly conversations with them, instilling trust. This goes a long way because there are times when we may see some of the children out within their own neighborhood or at their home. With some of the youth having met our officers already at one of our outreach events, they are not as scared of the police as they would have been, had they not had that positive experience,” Cpl. Pokrop said.
The best part of it all for Corporal Pokrop? “Interacting with the kids and just getting to know them on a personal level. Also, just letting the kids know that we are approachable and are there to help them,” Cpl. Pokrop said. “Playing basketball is a lot of fun too!”
Hoops with Heroes will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, July 9 at the basketball courts on Watson and Bailey Streets in Steelton. Anyone is welcome to join and there is no cost or registration required.