One of the newest vehicles added to the Orange County (FL) Sheriff’s Office fleet is turning heads and producing smiles. When the department’s Mobile Video Game Theater deploys, it offers 11 large screens and the latest gaming platforms.
Sgt. D’Angelo Bell, of the department’s Community Relations Department, explains the sheriff’s office already has a Police Athletic League (PAL) but the department wanted an additional way to engage with children.
“Nowadays, we have a lot of kids that are really not into sports. A lot of them play video games. So, we wanted to come up with a different concept where we can use this to connect with the kids,” says Bell. “We just did a brainstorming, and we came up with the whole mobile video games idea.”
So, to get the project rolling, members of the Community Relations Department met with several people who operate private gaming trailers, asked questions, and sought their advice about the pros and cons of having a gaming trailer. Then, the department contacted several vendors that could provide a gaming trailer designed specifically for the sheriff’s office. Bell says the final price came in at $118,000 for the 30-foot trailer that weighs about 11,000 pounds.
“This theater was designed just for us. We told them we just wanted the best of the best put into this trailer and to design a trailer and that's what they did for us,” he says.
The trailer, equipped with an onboard generator and three air conditioning units, features 11 big screens and 44 kids can play games at the same time. Four of the 40-inch flatscreens are located on the outside with the remainder located inside the air-conditioned trailer. The sheriff’s office uses social media and the Nextdoor app to promote where the Mobile Video Game Theater will be set up and the community response has been good.
“Once we came up with this mobile video game trailer, we wanted the top video games. So that's why we have MLB 2021, have the best Mario Kart, and we also have Madden 2022,” says Bell. “So, everything that we put in here, we wanted to make sure it was the top of the line, the best of the best.”
Gaming platforms include Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, and a virtual reality gaming station. Deputies keep up with the latest video games and Bell says before any games are purchased, they are reviewed by ratings and vetted to be “kid friendly.” He says one of the most popular games is the virtual reality game where kids don goggles and fly jets. In general, all the games are “top of the line and look real,” says Bell as he mentions the gaming technology has changed greatly since his younger days when he played Sonic the Hedgehog and an older version of Mario Kart.
The Mobile Video Game Theater was introduced to the community in March while children were out of school on spring break, and it has made many appearances since the debut. Bell says it has deployed three to five times a month, with that frequency increasing a little as summer progresses. The department has also partnered with the local Boy’s and Girl’s Club to set the trailer up at summer sporting events.
Even though the theater falls under the Community Relations Department, patrol deputies also participate when the gaming trailer deploys. However, the deputies don’t just always sit on the sidelines.
“A lot of kids, they'll come out to our events, and they get very competitive, and they want to play the deputies in video games. They sit there competing with each other on video games and it's a wonderful experience because that is bridging the gap between them and law enforcement and also the community that we serve,” Bell says. “We want to make sure it is a wonderful experience for everybody and make that great impression on all the kids that come out.”
Even though the Orange County Sheriff’s Office is a large department, Bell says any department could scale the concept and implement smaller versions of a gaming trailer to engage youth in the community.