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Metro launches program aimed at helping troubled youth | News

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Metro launches program aimed at helping troubled youth

LAS VEGAS -- Las Vegas Metro Police and other local groups are trying to use sports to mentor youth in troubled areas of the valley. They've started a new program called P.L.A.Y. – Pastors and Police Leading Athletics for Youth -- aimed at steering at-risk kids in the right direction.

The first P.L.A.Y. event was held Saturday and hosted by Heroes United in the Desert Meadows neighborhood. Police say they're working to create tighter bonds with the communities they serve.

They want to affect change with the next generation through sports like football, basketball and soccer.

"The one thing we've learned is we cannot arrest our way out of crimes and us joining with the community working together trying to get this community better is the only way we're going to have true success," said Sgt. Phillip Merges.

A host of volunteers attended the event including members of the UNLV football team, firefighters and local business owners.

UNLV linebacker Matt Lea volunteered his time to play football with kids this weekend with the goal to inspire them to stay in school.

"As a community we all look to our younger kids as the future so we want the kids to do as best as they can to set up their future and be a positive person in life," said Lea.

Lea said he believes playing sports can be a good hobby that can keep kids out of trouble.

"It keeps them on track of doing things,” said Lea. "There's always going to be bad things in a community and, you know, staying in sports, staying in school distracts them from those bad things in the community."

Police say it's all part of a larger effort over the past year and a half to improve relations with people living in Desert Meadows – a neighborhood in the northwest part of the valley. They say that partnership with the community has helped drive down violent crime by 75 percent.

Metro police tell us they will be setting up games with kids on a weekly basis at Help of Liberty Baptist Church. Authorities hope to reach out to more youth in the community through the program for future events.