Thursday, December 21, 2006

Brawls Plague Hoops Games

Detroit high school basketball games are relocated after more fan fights break out.

Mike Wilkinson and Oralandar Brand-Williams / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- Increasing gang violence at Detroit Public School League games has forced a number of west side high schools to take today's basketball games on the road.

A 100-person brawl Tuesday that spilled onto the Redford court during overtime against Henry Ford was the worst and latest of several incidents that have school leaders concerned about safety.

"I'd rather move and be safe than not move and have something drastic happen," said Richard Carter, athletic coordinator for Cody High School.

Three of today's games have been moved to east side schools, said Lafayette Evans, athletic director for Detroit Public Schools. The district, he said, would prefer to have the games in the host school's community, but "at this point in time, the climate is not there."

On Tuesday , Redford was winning by six points with less than a minute to go in overtime when fans leaving the game started fighting. Within seconds, the floor was filled, said Terry Truvillion, principal of Henry Ford. The game never resumed; Redford was awarded the victory.

School officials said there were no arrests. But the incident occurred a week after another fight spilled onto the court at Henry Ford during its win over Cody.

Cody's team had just lost when a fight broke out in the stands and moved to the court, forcing the Cody team to take shelter near the bench, Carter said.

Truvillion, Evans and Carter said the fighting at the games has gotten worse. They blame the listless economy on creating the gang members whom they believe are the root of the problem. Some say the same woes contributed to the rise in violent crime across Detroit.

"The gangs are out of control," Truvillion said.

Evans said he consulted school leaders and the district's police before reaching an agreement on the moves. Four district officers are at every game, in addition to other district security personnel. "We've got that maximum protection and we didn't have that 20 years ago," he said.

Today, Cody fans will have to make at least a 12-mile trek to King High School on the east side to see the team play Renaissance. Redford and Mackenzie play at Pershing, and Mumford and Ford play at Denby.

But with gang members using the games as opportunities for trouble, Carter said it's better to change the venue rather than create a stage for them.

"In doing so, hopefully it'll discourage those individuals who have nothing to do, really, from attending the games," he said.

The fighting isn't reserved just for sporting events, officials say. DPS spokeswoman Mattie Majors said fighting among students at school is on the rise.

On the same day as the Cody-Henry Ford game, a female student from Northern High School on Woodward Avenue was stabbed during a fight involving several girls and a male student about a block from the school. The girl jumped the boy.

"We don't create the fighters," said Majors. "The community, society does. We don't create the environment where they learn hostility, that comes from the community. They bring it (the violence) into the school. (The schools) provide easy access to everybody they've got a beef with."

It's unclear whether the rest of the season's games, which resume after the first of the year, will be moved, Evans said.

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