New tool to help JSO connect with kids; focus on community policing

There has been a call for the Jacksonville Sheriff Office to focus on more community policing to fight violent crime.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There has been a call for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to focus on more community policing to fight violent crime. Sheriff Pat Ivey said last week it’s something the department has been doing -- but has not been making much noise about it. He used the Police Athletic League as an example.

Now JSO has just announced its latest program and it involves video games. JSO is using Super Mario and other video games in a way to connect to the community.

It’s the latest community policing tool—The Mobile Gaming Unit. It’s a way for police to interact with teens and kids in neighborhoods. JSO Director Deloris O’Neal says the gaming truck is a way to bring about a more trusting environment.

It was an idea O’Neal had when she was a zone commander but it was delayed by COVID. On Monday, it was finally unveiled at the PACE Center for Girls. Eventually, it will be making its way to parks and other community areas for kids and teens to interact with officers.

“Well, it also gives us an opportunity for us to interact with them so they can see us as humans not just as a person with a uniform on,” O’Neal said. “We want to be with the kids. We love being around them, and we love having that partnership with them. So it makes us human right along with them,” O’Neal said.

This is one tool not costing JSO. The trailer was one JSO already owned. Sponsors paid for the games and paint job. One of the first to participate was Kyra who attends the PACE center for girls. We asked if kids would feel comfortable playing video games with the police.

“People have different experiences with them. There are people who trust them and there are some that don’t. I feel like where I live they would because it’s something different and we love video games, we are kids or teenagers,” Kyra said. “It’s something for all of us to connect it’s something we have in common.”

And if the unveiling at the PACE center is a good example it looks like the kids and cops were having fun.

They were quick to point out this isn’t something you can rent for parties but can be requested for some community events. It will be at some of the Jumbo shrimp games.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.