The first 'Cop a Card' scheme within the UK originated in the South Wales Constabulary in 1982 and featured stars of Welsh Rugby. It was launched by Superintendent M. Bowden following his studies in the USA under a Churchill Scholarship and the idea stemmed from the American crime prevention cards. The idea behind all of these cards is to improve and foster good relationships between young people and the police.
Generally the scheme involved the issue of coloured collecting cards or more recently stickers on a given subject with crime prevention advice on the reverse side. It entails uniformed police officers being issued with these cards which they then give to those youngsters who approach them and request them. The intention and hope is that whilst the officers are handing over these cards a little time will be spent in conversation between the giver and the receiver, mainly about Crime Prevention, and that the receiver will then be encouraged to collect complete sets. Therefore, whilst collecting their sets young people will meet as many individual Police Officers as is practicable, thus increasing contact between the Police and young people, enhancing Police Public relations, reducing crime and increasing young people's awareness of the role of the police.
To prolong interest, distribution of the cards is usually staggered over a period of a couple of months and to retain that interest until the end, prizes are sometimes awarded to the first persons presenting completed sets at their local police stations (other incentive variations involve the inclusion in a prize draw). All persons completing sets will normally be issued with a booklet or backing board on which the cards can be displayed. To make things slightly more interesting whilst collecting, the back of some of the cards required the recipient to fill in or answer simple questions before the backing boards were issued.
The cards themselves vary in size, shape, format, topic etc. but the issues to date can be categorised into four main groups;
1. Those featuring sporting personalities whether they are of international, national or local fame.
2. Those sponsored by and featuring products of a particular company e.g. Post Office postage stamps, British Telecom pay phones, Austin Rover cars and British Rail intercity.
3.Those featuring items of interest relevant to the locality in which they are issued. In South Wales local Authorities have sponsored cards depicting scenes of beauty, in others local history has been portrayed e.g. pictorial history of Walsall, Jersey transport through the ages, East Yorkshire scenes of beauty.
4.The final theme relates to the police itself whether it is about today's force or a short history. South Wales produced a set of today's police however, most card producing forces, namely West Midlands, Northamptonshire and Lancashire have preferred the history of their own force or of the National Police as its subject. The most recent sets featuring local Police Officers have been created in the style of the card game 'Trumps'.