Game console to become a tool for the police? New research project aims to reach children and young people through gaming
The Official gaming companions project will test and study how the police could intervene with harmful activities and crime in gaming communities and gaming platforms.
The aim of the new project, led by the Police University College (Polamk), is to enable the police to reach children and young people on digital gaming platforms. The Official gaming companions innovation project will produce a manual for how crime can be prevented and combated in gaming communities and on gaming platforms. A further aim is to prevent juveniles from becoming involved in cyber crime and criminal networks that are active in the world of gaming. Moreover, the project will develop the multi-professional Anchor work and supplement it with a new operating model.
“Despite the fact that crime has shifted online, the police in Finland does not yet have sufficient online presence. For example, in the worst case scenario, sexual offenses, planning of mass killings, and radicalization may take place on gaming forums. This project is one of the proposed solutions to enable the police to operate online,” say Detective Chief Inspector Jukka Kero from Ostrobothnia Police Department and Researcher Pirjo Jukarainen from the Police University College.
“In practice, the police officers involved in the project play games online with children and young people and at the same time, chat with them. It is important to keep in mind that for the police, gaming is not the main purpose, but a tool for reaching out to children and young people. This is similar to the other preventive activities of the police. The gaming platform is like a virtual police car that we use to navigate the world of gaming and meet the youngsters there.”
In addition to the Police University College, Ostrobothnia Police Department, National Bureau of Investigation’s Cybercrime Exit and the authorities cooperating in multi-professional Anchor activities are involved in the project. Senior Constable Daniel Kalejaiye, well known for many youngsters from social media, has also taken on a fixed-term Specialist’s position at Polamk in the project.
“Our project will kick off on 26 August in connection with the Police Day. We will have two live sessions then, one in TikTok on my channel at 10 a.m., and the other on the Police University College’s Instagram account at 11 a.m. During the live sessions, followers can chat with me and participate in various games and challenges. Representatives of the National Bureau of Investigation and police departments throughout Finland will also be involved. With them, I will discuss how to encounter the police and cyber security,” Kalejaiye says.
Ideas and examples from abroad
The idea for the project is based on the previous International models for public communication of the police and their utilization in Finland (VIESTI) research project, which produced a comparative analysis of European practices and operational models in public communication of the police. During the project, the Gamen met de politie project, initiated in the Netherlands in 2020, came up. The project’s purpose at the Netherlands Police is to try and establish dialogue and interaction with young people in their everyday environments.
“In the Netherlands, local police stations involved in the project have gaming consoles which they use with police profiles for playing online games popular among young people. Police officers play and chat with the youngsters while playing the games. This type of interaction increases police awareness of young people’s the operating environment and enables resolving, in advance, the problems and challenges that the youngsters face,” Jukarainen says.
The Official gaming companions project shares similar goals that can be categorized at three levels:
- General social debate and legality education for all children and young people on gaming platforms. Protecting children and young people from the disadvantages of, and crimes on gaming forums.
- Intervening with criminality of children and young people in risk groups. The aim is to break the cycle of becoming involved in continuously more severe criminality.
- Combating of professional and organized crime on gaming forums. Intervening with the activities of criminal networks and groups.
The project also seeks to learn from international experiences in various ways, including participating in a collaborative project and an international gaming event.
The duration of the Official gaming companions innovation project is approximately one year.