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The gaming bus helping tackle anti-social behaviour

By Damien Edgar

It's an unconventional way of tackling anti-social behaviour among teenagers, but the PSNI is teaming up with a gaming bus to do just that.

Police have ben running sessions in the Mid and East Antrim area recently, having enlisted the services of the Godmodex gaming bus in 2020.

Business owner Michael Scott says it's all about engaging with young people "on a different level".

Read more: Police respond to youths throwing stones at passing cars in North Belfast

"Basically if the kids are doing this, they're not out drinking or taking drugs or causing a mess," he added.

"The response has always been fantastic, the kids really love it.

"The fact is the kids can come on and have a bit of banter with the police officers, which is great to see."

The bus has been to Newtownards, Bangor, Cullybackey, Ballymena and other areas since the initiative began two years ago.

Michael said the police were seeing the benefits of the initiative and had even named a big part of the events themselves.

"Well we also grab a bit of pizza and it's called 'pizza with the peelers', I thought that was quite catchy myself," he added.

"The sessions are set at certain times too so that when the kids finish up, they're not going to an off-license or anything, they can just head home.

"I know a few officers have said that when they've seen some of the kids after about the place, they'll always say hello.

"You'd be surprised the conversations had too, the kids will open up, not anything personal, but just a few walls will come down and they'll start to talk to them as a normal person."

Michael said with many young people turning to gaming as a way of keeping in touch during the lockdown years, it was a good way of bringing them together and keeping them out of trouble too.

He said he hopes the initiative can continue to get round more areas and help break down further barriers.

PSNI Inspector Beverlie Reid said they had started up the "Engage the Gamer" last week in Cullybackey and saw it as a useful way of reaching out to young people.

“The event was well received, with our officers taking up the challenge from various local gamers across different console systems," she said.

“It was extremely encouraging to see so many young people attend, with our officers enjoying the opportunity to engage in a relaxed environment.

“We hope that further, similar style events will take place across the district as we continue to listen to community concerns and address them in a positive, proactive manner.”

Read more: Children's Commissioner says young people “not being properly protected” from paramilitaries

Read more: PSNI warning after students conned out of £105,000 by fraudsters

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