WMP using Virtual Reality to tackle gang violence 

A new virtual reality project is hitting home to Birmingham pupils the very real consequences of getting drawn into violent crime.

Birmingham Police has partnered with a not-for-profit creative arts group to develop a VR experience in which children are immersed in a world of peer pressure and gang culture.

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Pupils taking part in the virtual reality project

The Virtual_Decisions scenario sees the 11 to 17-year-olds asked a series of challenging questions as they navigate through the story towards one of several outcomes.

Sergeant Helen Carver from 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."

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

It’s now back up and running - and is also being offered to teachers so they can have follow-up discussions with their children about the issues raised.

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Teachers are encouraged to discuss the consequences of the decisions pupils have made

Virtual Decisions is one of several creative initiatives we’ve introduced in Birmingham as part of a national Serious & Organised Crime Community Co-ordinators project.

We’re one of eight pilot areas in England and Wales to receive six-figure funding to identify and implement programmes designed to safeguard children and young people - and to steer them away from violent crime. 

Others include:

  • Health & Wellbeing Mentors in primary schools who work with vulnerable children
  • A theatre project that will see pupils at Holte School and Broadway Academy create a drama piece that explores topics like youth violence, exploitation and the threat of county lines drug dealing
  • Working with a Birmingham charity on a hard-hitting music video illustrating the shocking impact of organised crime, plus creating a “toolkit" to help Imans at discuss organised crime at mosques in the city
  • And a series of workshops in Lozells and Sparkbrook involving police, schools, youth services, housing, charities and local groups to agree a new way forward to help safeguard young people and galvanise communities.

Chief Inspector Corrina Griffiths from Birmingham Police: “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." 

The 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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