Somerville police cheered on young athletes during a Saturday basketball tournament at aimed at forging a friendly relationships between officers and teenagers.
The fourth annual Metro Mayors Basketball Tournament drew teens from Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Quincy, Revere, Somerville and Winthrop. Members of Somerville’s Teen Empowerment center competed against the other Greater Boston youth organizations.
Teen Empowerment encourages teenagers to band together with police to reduce crime and violence. Director Marlon Ramdehal said the center arranges visits from police to allow teenagers to meet them, ask about their work and kindheartedly quiz them about the law. During visits, officers and teens have pledged to respect each other on the street and have even hugged as a group.
“We’re trying to humanize cops,” Ramdehal said.
Another way to do so, he said, was to get them to come to the basketball tournaments.
Though the Somerville team lost against the Malden and Winthrop ones, players said they appreciated the chance to participate and have local police as their fans.
Matt George, who served as the point guard on the co-ed team, said that he feels safer now that he’s met officers from the Somerville Police Department.
George, 15, said that when he meets with police next week, he plans to ask why he sees officers patrolling East Somerville, where he lives, more than other neighborhoods in the city.
Delmy Chacon, 18, has been involved with Teen Empowerment for three years. She and the other members regularly talk about drugs, violence and teen pregnancy: “things that teens don’t usually talk about,” she said.
Often they communicate through storytelling, poetry, speeches and skits, Chacon said. Recently the center hosted an open mike at the , and after the tournament ended, two teens rapped and sang.
Teen Empowerment also has centers in the Roxbury, Dorchester and Jamaica Plain neighborhoods of Boston, as well as one in Rochester, N.Y.