The Fugitive Game: Police clamp down on extreme game of tag

The Fugitive Game: Police clamp down on extreme game of tag

KELSO, Wash. – This past weekend, Kelso police handed out several citations to the kids for disorderly conduct and un-safe driving ... all related to an extreme game of tag.

It's not just Kelso and Longview where this game is a hit. Apparently it's getting more popular up and down the West Coast.

This game can involve a few people or hundreds, with one group of kids trying to catch another group. It's the old-fashioned game of flashlight tag – taken to a new level.

Here's how it works: It's usually played at night, with any number of people. One group of kids – on foot and in cars – chases and tries to tag the other kids with a flashlight beam. However, the chase can last for miles – through city streets and even backyards – sometimes from as far away as Longview to Kelso.

"If they're not having fun doing something free," said Kelso resident Valerie Bates. "...then what are they supposed to do?"

Kelso police said it's getting dangerous, so they're cracking down on the kids' game.

The game itself, called "Fugitive," isn't against the law. However, the way it's played could be.

This past weekend, a group of about 150 kids were involved in one game. That time, a bunch of 9-1-1 calls came in from people thinking they had vandals and prowlers around their homes as the kids chased through the neighborhoods.

We talked to some parents who said they are glad at least the kids aren't just sitting in front of the computer all night.

Meanwhile, Kelso police said they don't want to spoil the kids' fun. However, if laws are being broken – such as disorderly conduct and un-safe driving – then this level of "fun" needs to be stopped.
"You can't paintball in certain places anymore, so let 'em do something like this, where they can do something that's fun and easy and doesn't cost their parents a lot of money," said Kim Goetz, a Kelso resident. "You gotta go back to that sometime."

But the same people that said "let the kids play" also see how the game can be trouble.

"If somebody was in my backyard with a flashlight, and it was all fenced off...," said Rebecca Brooke. "If it was the middle of the night I'd probably call the cops.

"I don't see anything wrong with playing flashlight tag," she said. "I do see something wrong with them in a car. I do see something wrong with them on private property."

This past weekend, during the game with about 150 kids involved, there was a big jump in Kelso's 9-1-1 calls. People thought they had vandals and prowlers in their yard.

After Kelso police cited several of those kids for disorderly conduct and un-safe driving, cops on the night shift are now saying they will be on the look-out for more of that behavior. They said they'll even be looking for pedestrian violations. Longview police, meanwhile, said they haven't seen similar problems, even though the game is said to sometimes stretch into that area.

"I think rules are there to protect us and the police are there to enforce the rules," Bales said. "When you get too many adults together you could have a recipe for disaster. Hopefully the adults have more common sense than a teen-ager at the time in their life."

Others are saying it could be a recipe for disaster. "I think it's dangerous, especially in cars," said one neighbor. "Someone could get hurt. Some parents will be sad."