A COUNCILLOR was left a “little puzzled” that a police-backed project which aims to deter young people from getting involved in anti-social behaviour uses artificial firearms to get its important message across.

Members of Wellington Town Council’s finance committee agreed on March 21 to award Avon and Somerset Constabulary a grant of £2,982 towards its Airsoft Youth Diversionary Project.

Airsoft is a team-based shooting game in which participants eliminate opposing players out of play by tagging them with spherical plastic projectiles shot from low-power airguns called airsoft guns.

The initiative will work alongside established projects run by the Neighbourhood Police Team and other agencies including the Wellington Wellbeing Project for Children and Young People.

A spokesman for the project, in a report, said: “The purpose of the Airsoft project is to target the hard to reach youths of Wellington who are involved in anti-social behaviour and on the fringes of crime and will not engage in other forms of diversion. We want to encourage engagement and socialisation with a wider peer group.”

Cllr John Thorne said he was a “little puzzled” when he went on the internet and found that the project involved using artificial firearms.

“I find it a little bit odd that they are using imitation firearms for this, but the actual idea of engaging with the youth groups is worthwhile,” he said.

Cllr Marcus Barr said he had no issues with the actual project, but added that giving away nearly £3,000 towards it was a lot of money.

“How many young people is this going to benefit?” he asked. “If it’s just ten children – it’s not really value for money; but if we’re talking about 100 young people, then yes it is.”

Cllr Andrew Govier said that he could understand why the police were using imitation firearms for the project.

“I’m guessing they need to use something that would attract the people they want to attract to get involved,” he said.

And the Mayor, Cllr Mark Lithgow, quipped: “I think there is some logic to the madness.”

“If it’s something like paint-balling or laser quest it really does bind people together,” he added.

The Airsoft project aims to teach youths how to be part of a team and work together for a common purpose; to improve the mental and physical health through activity and problem solving; to improve trust and build report with local disadvantaged youths; and to signpost and encourage positive behaviour and outcomes going forward.

The Airsoft spokesman, in a report, added: “The proposal came forward after members of the Neighbourhood Police Team had spoken to some of the young people they would be working with to see what they would want to do.”