Hoop Dreams: Police install new court at Dower Square and get to work playing with kids

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Photo Gallery | Basketball court at Dower Square in Pittsfield opens

PITTSFIELD — Ethan Hinckley was engaged in a 3-on-3 basketball game Tuesday afternoon, helping the city showcase its latest community relations success.

The 13-year-old Reid Middle School students was making his moves on the new Dower Square Court at the rear of the Wahconah Street public housing development.

"It's better and bigger and has a better hoop," he said.

Mayor Linda M. Tyer was watching from the sidelines, thrilled to see youngsters exercising their entire bodies, not just their thumbs.

"That's the beauty of this project, the kids have put down their digital technology," she said. "It's summer time and they are playing together outside in the neighborhood."

Tyer's comments to an Eagle reporter followed a group ribbon cutting ceremony to officially unveil the recreational facility built in memory of Shavez Forte. The 6-year-old died of cancer in January, two months after being made an honorary Pittsfield police officer through Cops for Kids with Cancer, a Boston-based charity.

Through the Hoops Not Crime initiative, several off-duty Pittsfield police officers and businesses during a two-week period in June built a new 28-by-28-foot basketball playing surface, replacing an existing 15-by-15-foot court built decades ago.

The concrete court is painted and lined with a new clear backboard and hoop separated from the parking area by a chain-link fence.

Officer Darren Derby spearheaded the project, but heaped praise on the businesses and individuals who contributed material, labor and equipment to the court.

"They didn't hesitate to help," Derby said. "They dropped whatever they were doing to build this," he said, before he and a group of children cut the yellow crime scene tape being put to better use.

The new basketball court is the latest and grandest effort by city police to build a better relationship with local youth, as inspired by the Hoops Not Crime movement that's sweeping the nation, using the social media hashtag #HoopsNotCrime.

Earlier this spring, Pittsfield police delivered a portable basketball hoop to South Atlantic Street and on several occasions have provided new basketballs to children in other parts of the city.

Derby sees Hoops Not Crime as a way to improve upon community policing.

Dower Square resident Jennifer Isenhart, mother of four, sees the basketball court as a quality-of-life improvement.

"It went from a negative, dark area, to a bright positive place," she said.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413 496-6233.


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