There is nothing like a positive mainstream media story about videogames to make SPOnG’s start to the week a happier one. Especially a heart-warming story about how games are being used by police to cut youth crime and to rehabilitate persistent young offenders back into the community. Read on to see how videogames might be used by law-enforcement agencies in the future to make your community a safer one.
Gaming tournaments between police and persistent young offenders on an estate in the notorious Moredun area of Edinburgh have been widely praised for helping slash local youth crime. An innovative and so-far successful police initiative, where the local bizzies and toerags battle it out on consoles instead of in run-down local industrial estates, is currently being trialled, the Edinburgh Evening News reported earlier today.
The weekly PlayStation 2 tournaments on Pro Evolution Soccer, Tiger Woods Golf and Gran Turismo 3 take place in the local library. The tournaments so far have been between members of the local Police Youth Action Team and a group of around 30 youths who are known regular offenders. Since the initiative started it seems to have had the effect of cutting crime in the locality quite dramatically. Officers dealt with 92 complaints in the month before the competition but only 53 while it was running. Ninety-three calls were received during the same period last year.
Edinburgh Police are now considering rolling out the scheme out across the Scottish Capital as an alternative to other, more hardline yet less successful police tactics. SPOnG applauds their forward-thinking and would urge other police and youth workers to consider setting up similar initiatives to get bored kids off the streets and to improve local community police relationships.
PC Rod Robinson, of the Youth Action Team, who organised the competition said: "The youths involved in the trouble were mostly 13 and 14, although there were some who are a bit older and younger. Basically, they had nothing to do in the evenings so there was nuisance and rowdiness, which led to a lot of calls.
"The problem was centred around the library and its staff were experiencing difficulties with the kids. I went down and chatted with them and together we came up with the idea of using the PlayStation they had in the library.
"We told the children we would run this tournament but they had to behave or they would be banned from competing. That really seemed to work. Some kids even told me they wouldn't be going out next week because they didn't want to risk getting excluded."
Those who made it through to the finals got to take home brand new copies of the PlayStation games, which seem to have been a great incentive and one that helped to ensure that the tournaments were both successful and popular.
PC Rod Robinson added: "I have three children so I'm quite experienced with the PlayStation. It took them 15 attempts to beat me at Gran Turismo but they thrashed me at the football. They were really competitive and were always telling me they would beat me next week!
"It also showed them that we're not just cops in uniforms and that level of communication will be beneficial in the future. I know a lot about these kids now and how they think. Before we started I would have said a reduction of ten per cent would have been good, so nearly 50 per cent is fantastic.”
Well, who’d have thunk it? A genuinely progressive, interesting and seemingly successful police policy to deal with the petty crimes which are committed wherever you have groups of bored teenagers with little to do. Perhaps, in light of Mr Blair's recent bleatings about his new RESPECT agenda and what not, this is something that could be rolled out nationwide – let us know your thoughts in the forum below.