As a group of kids played basketball in the street near 31st and Parker on Monday, their faces brightened up when the Omaha Police Gang Unit arrived with a new basketball hoop in the back of a pickup truck.
They set it up in a vacant parking lot across the street and boys and girls of all ages began giving it a workout. The delivery was a kick off to the expansion of Operation N.E.T.S., Neighborhood Engagement Through Sports. The program strengthens community partnerships with police officers and firefighters and focuses on connecting with kids though positive interaction and sports.
Deputy Omaha Police Chief Ken Kanger saw first hand the need for an upgrade in equipment for the kids living in the neighborhood.
"I was driving around and saw the kids and their net was gone. Then over time I could tell the hoop just needed a little work, some TLC, so we decided to get a new hoop and bring it over to the kids."
Kanger began replacing nets and handing out balls a few years ago. Now the program has grown and the Omaha Fire Department, La Vista Police and the Douglas and Sarpy County Sheriff's Departments are getting involved.
"You bring out a basketball, you bring out a hoop ... kids will come out," said Capt. Wayne Hudson of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. "It's not all about just giving them a new basketball ... it's interacting with the kids, building that relationship so that if they see us later on, if they have a problem, they feel more comfortable approaching us."
Residents can donate sports balls of any type and equipment at several locations across the metro area. First responders will keep them in their vehicles and pass them out when they are on patrol or to comfort a child during an emergency or investigation.
Kanger says it's important to continue to build relationships with kids and the community. "They have to understand what law enforcement is here for and that we're trying to do everything we can to make sure that they're successful and this is a great way to develop those relationships."
If you want to donate to the program here are the locations.
Omaha Police Department:
Central Police Headquarters, 505 S. 15th St.
Southwest Precinct, 5111 South 135th St.
Southeast Precinct, 2475 Deer Park Blvd.
Northwest Precinct, 10245 Wiesman Drive
Northeast Precinct, 4316 N. 30th St.
Omaha Fire Department:
Central Station, 1516 Jackson St.
Station 63, 16736 S St.
Station 71, 20474 Laramie Road, Elkhorn
Sarpy County Sheriff's Office:
Central office, 8335 Platteview Road, Papillion
Juvenile Justice Center, 9701 Portal Road, Papillion
La Vista police headquarters, 7701 S. 96th St.
Douglas County Law Enforcement Center, 3601 N. 156th St.