09/11/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT
Liverpool police Sgt. Dale Bradshaw eases his patrol car to a full stop. He and his partner, Constable Les Harvey, have been prowling the back streets of Kirkdale, a gritty section of a gritty English city, and now they've spotted their quarry: a group of local kids. Bradshaw and Harvey exit the car. The kids stand their ground; some start moving toward the officers.
That's because these cops have something to offer: Cop Cards, Pokémon-style collectibles that show the faces of 19 local bobbies—from constables on the street to their chief. "We were excited when we saw the car," says Elliott Hughes, 8. "I want to collect the whole set."
Bradshaw, 39, a community relations officer, got the idea for the cards after observing his son Oliver, 10, indulging his Pokémon obsession last spring. Cop Cards, he reasons, are a way to encourage young kids to view the police as friends. "Children were not talking to us as much as they used to," he says. "I think they'd become a bit afraid of us."
Each week police issue four different cards, and once kids have the entire set, they're eligible to compete in a drawing for prizes, which include video games and a computer. Since July the officers have handed out 16,000 cards—and made scores of young friends. "Kids now shout out our names and say 'Hello,' " says Bradshaw, who hopes the program will expand to other cities. He's even encountered kids willing to trade their Pokémon cards for Cop Cards. Eat your heart out, Pikachu!