Police Athletics for Community Engagement, also known as PACE had the majority of their athletic equipment stolen from program’s storage shed for the second time Wednesday night.
Police say someone broke into the shed located at the Bob Campos Memorial Soccer Complex located at 33rd and Q Streets and took 50 soccer balls, several baseballs bag, a tent, hand tools, uniforms, and field maintenance equipment.
The same shed was broken into last June at the beginning of the season. Organizers fixed the shed and were eventually able to replace the equipment thanks to community donations, but nobody was ever found responsible.
“It’s disappointing that someone would do this to kids,” says Detective Antonio Espejo, one of the lead organizers for the program.
Losing the equipment is a setback for the nonprofit’s free summer youth program which starts early June. Now the organization will have to scramble to find the equipment necessary for nearly 1,700 kids to continue playing with PACE.
“It’s disappointing because any donation that we get we put towards the kids so they can play soccer so they aren't doing these types of things,” says Espejo.
Police officers and volunteers are upset someone would steal from such a positive community effort. Espejo says this program helps kids connect in a positive environment.
"It's harder for two kids to hate each other and maybe kill each other down the road if they at one point played against each other or played on the same team together. It just makes it that much harder because they know that kid from somewhere. And this is that where. This where they get to meet them,” says Espejo.
Espejo says the season will continue and will have to rely on the community’s support for donations to replace the equipment.
“If we have to play with wrapped up duct tape - we're going to play no matter what. We'll find balls, borrow balls, we'll do whatever we have to do. We're going to keep going,” says Espejo.
PACE, a nonprofit started by the Latino Peace Officers Association in 2005, is dedicated to preventing at-risk inner-city children, primarily in South Omaha from becoming involved in gang violence. The program organizes a baseball and soccer league for youth ages 8-18 during the summer months.
If you want to make a donation to the program, go to http://www.paceomaha.org/.