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Indy to use computer game to teach kids about law

Indianapolis police using computer game based on TV's 'Jeopardy!' to teach kids about the law

Posted on July 21, 2014 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on July 21, 2014 at 3:05 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis police are trying out an interactive computer game based on television’s “Jeopardy!” to prevent teenagers from falling into lives of crime by teaching them about the consequences of breaking Indiana’s laws.

Police spokesman Lt. Chris Bailey said the teens who will attend Tuesday’s inaugural local presentation of the Juvenile Justice Jeopardy computer game will be treated to free pizza at a YMCA branch in a crime-troubled east side district.

But he said the game is serious and full of sobering facts to help teens understand the state’s laws, the penalties for breaking them and how they should interact with police to avoid arrest.

Many teens don’t understand, for example, that they can face arrest for actions such as accepting a ride in a stolen car, whether or not they know that vehicle is stolen, Bailey said.

“The adult mind typically doesn’t fully develop comprehensive thoughts until the 20s. We want to show these kids what the consequences are for doing certain things, and try to prevent them from ever entering the juvenile justice system,” he said Monday.

Two local businessmen paid the $15,000 cost of the game and its licenses so that it can be used by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Indy Public Safety Foundation for years to come. Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Strategies for Youth developed the game.

It’s tailored to Indiana’s criminal code and includes facts such as that the cost of going through the state’s juvenile justice system for a crime is typically between $300 and $400, said Lisa Thurau, executive director of the nonprofit Strategies for Youth.

The interactive, scenario-based game takes 90 minutes to play and youngsters are asked 26 questions, she said.

Like “Jeopardy!” the game has five categories from which players can choose, including “Juvenile Justice,” ‘‘Police/Youth Interaction” and “Juvenile Records.”

Thurau said that when teens get the right answers they score points and the program responds with loud applause. If they get it wrong, the computer produces a disappointed “aww.”

Since the computer game was created in 2011, it’s been used in after-school programs, at YMCAs and Boys & Girls Club around the nation during presentations that include discussions about crime and punishment, Thurau said.

“The young people seem to really enjoy the conversation because they have so many questions about this and so few people are talking to them about it in a way that integrates both an understanding of behaviors and the law,” she said. “That’s what we find they respond to.”


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