A top New Zealand police officer says a jump in violent crime rates among youths corresponds with the release of next-generation gaming consoles.

Superintendent Bill Harrison, National Manager of Police Youth Services in New Zealand, said that while youth crime is in decline overall, the incidence of violent crimes among young people has jumped over the past two or three years, a period which corresponds with the release and rise in popularity of systems like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. According to New Zealand Ministry of Justice figures, the number of youths caught for criminal offenses fell 17 percent overall last year, but the number arrested for violent crimes actually rose by 25 percent.

Speaking to a conference on youth offenders, Harrison said the increased numbers partly reflected a movement of police resources to combating family violence, which resulted in an increase of young people arrested for violence against partners and family members. But he also said he grew concerned about the effects of videogames when he noticed his 14-year-old son playing an Xbox game featuring “human beings killing each other.”

“It was desensitizing him to violence,” Harrison told the conference. “It was shifting his norm about how he would deal with conflict. You see these kids – their hands are wringing wet with sweat because their bodies are taking in what’s going on on the screen and they are acting it out.”

Harrison said he wanted the impact of videogames included in new research on the increase in youth violence being conducted by the New Zealand government.

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