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Ex-criminals hope sharing their stories on basketball court will curb inner-city violence

Posted at 12:50 AM, May 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-16 00:53:08-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A group of reformed criminals is speaking out about the violence they are seeing in their community.

The group hopes to use Broad Rock Park on the city's Southside as a weekly meeting place to discuss how youth can avoid falling into the same pitfalls they encountered.

Organizers said the spike in violence on the Southside is due largely to a lack of respect -- something they said even police cannot fight.

Antonie Smirey, Levar Shelborn and Darryl Johnston said they were all involved in a life of crime but decided to leave that lifestyle behind. Conflict resolution strategies have been key to their success.

“A lot of people are followers and not being leaders. Instead to following what the next man does, be a leader,” Johnson said. “Put your pride to the side.”

Shelborn said he has learned to recognize conflict while still being assertive without being too aggressive.

"I hope people look and see what we're doing and learn from it and set an example in their neighborhood,” Smirey said.

The group plans to meet at the park every Sunday afternoon.

The young men also hope to partner with other community groups.