LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- In response to the rise in youth violence in the valley, many in the community want to know what police are doing to turn things around.
P.A.L. is a nationwide program and it stands for Police Athletic League. Metro police said it’s one of their most successful ways to reach at-risk youth.
The program is established in high-risk neighborhoods across the valley. But Metro is hoping to expand it and get other agencies involved, including Henderson and North Las Vegas police.
The lessons Coach Karlton Grant tries to teach kids at the PAL program go beyond the basketball court.
“I know basketball has always been like an escape for me to get away from the violence and all the bad distractions that were around me,” the Las Vegas born and raised coach said.
The Stupak Community Center is a bright spot in a downtown neighborhood, suffocated by crime.
“It’s rough,” Deidre Thomas said.
Thomas works at the community center where Metro police hosts the program.
What's the alternative if kids don't have an option like this?
“The streets,” Thomas answered.
“My average kid, you ask them, ‘How many gunshots did you hear this weekend?’ And they literally will say two or three,” Metro police officer Glen Taylor said. “That's not a normal question you ask an average kid.”
So whether it’s through basketball, a free hot meal or help with homework, police want to step in early and show kids there’s more than what they see on the streets.
“The kids here they need something to believe in,” Taylor said. “They need something that will give them better choices.”
Parents who have their kids in PAL said they’ve seen the recent news and it’s alarming.
“It’s a lot of stuff going on in the city right now, up to date we have a lot of killings, senseless killings,” Morgan Harris said. “And just grabbing onto the youth is very important right now.”
So the program is meant to create a fork in the road to give kids another option, rather than turning to violence or crime.
“If I weren't in this program, I'd be smoking, drinking,” Damyja Coleman said. “Really if you’re not in this program, it’s not that fun out there.”
But now the 16-year-old can be considered a success story. Coleman has a job interview coming up and someday wants to intern at a law firm.
“We see kids come back here and say because of you we made it,” Thomas said.
Metro police said both the Raiders and the Golden Knights have reached out to partner with police to create flag football and street hockey programs for at-risk youth.