Teens Play Dangerous Game 'Fugitive'

To play 'cops and robbers' on steroids, teens hop in and out of moving cars.

December 7, 2010, 12:17 PM

Dec. 10, 2010 — -- Teens are putting a dangerous twist on the once innocent game of cops and robbers, using social media and their cars to chase down the bad guy.

The game is called "Fugitive" and last week it took a scary turn in Sammamish, Washington when a 16-year-old female driver and her friend were hospitalized after crashing their car into a tree and fence while reportedly chasing fellow players.

The father of the Washington teen who crashed into the fence told ABC affiliate KOMO that he had never even heard of the game before his daughter was injured.

"This is kind of a new thing...people think that it's harmless, that it's just kids running around. It's just kids being kids until someone gets harmed," said Chief Nate Ellidge of the Sammamish Police Department.

Using Facebook, texting and other forms of social media to organize, teens meet up and split themselves into teams. One team is the cops and the other is the fugitives. By foot, the fugitives race to an established safe point while the other team tries to chase them in their cars. Those in cars, hop in and out of the moving vehicles to tag the fugitives.

Teens have been able to keep the game underground and away from parents by organizing through text messaging and Facebook. A search on Facebook brings up groups devoted to organizing the game. YouTube shows teens playing the dangerous game.

James Bowsher and Chris DeMarco, both 19, have played in or organized dozens of Fugitive matches.

"It's at night, there's a 150 people, energy drinks, adrenaline, testosterone, everything's flying around. It's, it's a blast," DeMarco said.

Few adults realize what the masses of teens running and driving through their neighborhood are doing.

"I've ran in someone else's yard and I've ran in their front yard and someone came out on their front porch with a gun and that's unfortunate," Bowsher said.

Instead of running or using a flashlight to tag someone, teens pile into cars, hopping in and out to catch the fugitives.

"People have been jumping out of cars while they were moving, somewhat relatively fast, but we tell people that if any rules are broken, if anybody gets hurt, we're just going to put an end to the game," Eugene Polupan, a player of the game, said.

Fugitive isn't the only teen game that has authorities concerned. A prank called "fire in the hole", first made popular on a reality TV show, landed a California teen in jail this week.

The prank involves teens going through a fast food restaurant's drive thru window and throwing food at the drive-thru clerk.

On Wednesday, a 17-year-old teen turned himself in to police for allegedly throwing hot creamed spinach on a Boston Market employee in Roseville, California. The employee, 21-year-old David Almas, is still recovering from second degree burns that will likely leave him permanently scarred.

"This became popular a couple of years ago when people would go through a drive thru restaurant and either order something or have a soda and liquid with them and they would yell 'fire in the hole' and throw the substance on the drive-thru clerk," Roseville Police Lieutenant Michael Doane said.

The popularity of the game can be seen on YouTube where videos of teens playing "fire in the hole" have been watched hundreds of thousands of times.

"It is a kind of sad state in society that people are getting enjoyment with these types of pranks. It's still a crime to throw things and hurt people. This case illustrates how serious it goes wrong," Doane said.

Psychologists said that social media isn't to blame for these games, but the Internet certainly allows teens to spread information more efficiently.

"Internet provides access or a way of spreading information that we didn't have 15 years ago or beyond," Dr. Jess Shatkin, director of Education and Training at the NYU Child Study Center, said.

Psychologists warn of the lasting consequences of posting videos of these games and pranks online.

"A video posted on YouTube has the potential of reaching a broad community, much larger than the traditional communities of school and neighborhood that adolescents used to be able to reach," Yalda Uhls from the Children's Digital Media Center said. "Facebook is a written record that law enforcement can access and some children may not be aware that they are leaving this kind of digital footprint."

ABC'S Neal Karlinsky contributed to this report. ABC Affiliates KOMO and KXTV contributed to this report.

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