BRONX (WABC) -- The NYPD has a new program called Blue Chips with a goal to mentor young men and get them to play a sport.
A basketball tournament at Hostos Community College on Thursday is part of the citywide initiative that includes some 200 police officers who volunteer their time and coach 850 children ages 12 to 17.
The young men competed against other kids who are coached by cops in other precincts.
"If we don't give them a perspective of us, then society will create a perspective of us," said NYPD Chief of Patrol Juanita Holmes.
The game is not just about shooting for points, the Bronx students are making a run at a new opportunity meant to expand their interests and bridge the gap between the youth and police.
"My hopes is that this is an intervention that will prevent them from having an interest in anything other than succeeding in life," Holmes said.
The program comes at a time NYC's homicide rate is up more than 3% from this time last year.
Holmes said the key component to the program is the mentorship.
"What I love about this, I had an opportunity to play basketball, but that's not it," former New York Knicks player Charles Smith said. "I had mentors in my community, I participated in programs like this that gave me that edge."
Blue Chips goes beyond sports. There is also reading, drama and dance incorporated into the program.
It's all meant to help the kids take a shot at something different while strengthening relations with their peers and police.
The winners of Thursday's tournament head to the borough playoffs on Aug. 9 before heading to the citywide championship on Aug. 20.
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