Making Science

North Yorkshire Police turn to videogames to engage with local children

David Murphy

The British Esports Association (BEA), a not-for-profit national body established in 2016 to promote eSports in the UK, has partnered with North Yorkshire Police to successfully trial a new initiative that uses gaming to engage with young people. 

Throughout August the ‘Cops vs. Kids’ pilot programme saw officers and staff from all sectors of North Yorkshire Police engage with young people from different backgrounds, including those with behavioural needs. Whilst the primary aim of the pilot was to strengthen connections between the police and the Yorkshire youth, it also highlighted the positive aspects eSports can have on young players, parents, and carers. 

The pilot was brought to life by DPCSO Chris Simpson and took place across 26 sessions at the Moor Lane Youth Centre in York. Attendees were able to play Rocket League – an arcade-style game that fuses football with racing cars.

BEA and the North Yorkshire Police said the pilot had been a success, not only strengthening relationships with the community, but also opening new opportunities for police to interact with young people in a neutral, comfortable environment. Officers were able to speak with the young participants informally about many topics, including the use of social media, online gaming, school & education, careers and behaviour in general.

Chris Simpson said “When I first came up with the idea for the ‘Cops v Kids Esports Pilot’ I was confident it would work, however I didn’t realise just how well it would work. Seeing the change in demeanour and attitude towards the police, sometimes, within a few minutes or certainly within the session was fantastic. The young people involved with the pilot were a joy to be around, there was lots of laughing, joking and friendly banter.

“We were able to engage with the young people on their level with something that interests them, whilst at the same time being able to have open and honest conversations about things that affect them in their lives. The young people and officers who participated actually learned a lot about each other, shared interests and even in some cases had similar backgrounds growing up. All made possible by the informal conversations they were able to have.” he added.

BEA and North Yorkshire Police are now looking at ways to further integrate educational and crime prevention aspects into gaming sessions and are considering expanding the initiative to new areas and regional police forces.