Virtual reality project to help Birmingham students understand consequences of crime

A virtual reality project to show students the consequences of being drawn into violent crime has launched in the West Midlands.

Pupils try out the VR headsets pre-lockdown. Photo: West Midlands Police
Pupils try out the VR headsets pre-lockdown. Photo: West Midlands Police

Police in Birmingham have teamed up with Virtual_Decisions to launch the VR experience to showcase the impact of peer pressure and gang culture.

The scenario sees students aged 11 to 17 asked a series of questions as they navigate through the story towards one of several outcomes.

Sergeant Helen Carver, from the Birmingham Police Partnerships team, said: "The VR package throws the children into a dilemma they may well face in real life. It allows them to make decisions in a safe environment and hopefully steer them to make good choices.

"Anonymous records of the decisions made are recorded and at the end of the experience we have a group discussion looking at the consequences of those decisions.

"The feedback from the children is very encouraging. It’s an interactive way to support young people in their decisions, discuss topics like peer pressure and give them confidence to make informed choices."

Hundreds of pupils from schools and Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) in Lozells and Sparkbrook took part in the project pre-lockdown.

Pupils try out the VR headsets pre-lockdown. Photo: West Midlands Police

And it is now back up and running and is being offered to teachers so they can have follow-up discussions with children about the issues raised.

The scheme is one of several being introduced in Birmingham as part of a national Serious and Organised Crime Community Co-ordinators project.

The city is one of eight pilot areas in England and Wales to receive funding to to help safeguard children and young people – and steer them away from violent crime.

Chief Inspector Corrina Griffiths from Birmingham Police said: "We’re constantly striving for new and imaginative ways to connect with children and influencing them to make positive decisions.

"We need to break the cycle of vulnerability in some of our more deprived communities."

Other projects include health and wellbeing mentors being introduced in primary schools, a theatre project at Holte School and Broadway Academy, workshops and a hard-hitting music video.

Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Waheed Saleem said: "Engaging tools to help young people connect actions to consequences are vital and I’m pleased we’ve been able to provide some funding from the Violence Reduction Unit to support this project.

"This is just one way we are tackling and preventing gang violence and ensuring that young people who maybe more at risk are able to see the ramifications of becoming involved in gangs."

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