Violence Reduction Alliance

The Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Violence Reduction Alliance (VRA) has purchased two Virtual Reality programmes to help educate children and young people on the risks and consequences of carrying a knife, gang culture, criminal exploitation and anti-social behaviour.

Virtual_Decisions, developed by Round Midnight, a creative arts and ed-tech company, enables young people to make different decisions and demonstrates the impact of their decisions.

Staffordshire Commissioner for Police, Fire & Rescue and Crime and Chair of the VRA, Ben Adams said:

“It’s important that we look for new and innovative ways to educate children and young people on topics such as these.

“Following recent community engagement, it is clear that young people across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent have some concerns particularly around knife crime. The Virtual Reality package will help to address some of these concerns and help educate young people on where to go for support.”

Participants are transformed into a virtual reality through the use of headsets, where they are faced with a range of scenarios such as, whether to go to a park where they know there is going to be conflict. Throughout the programmes, participants are faced with different decisions, allowing them to experience the potential consequences of being involved in criminal activity, without the dangers of the real world.

Following the Virtual Reality experience, participants are then invited to take part in a number of workshops and drama exercises to discuss the issues raised. The curriculum has been designed to educate young people on topics such as, empathy and the impact of their choices.

Those who choose to carry a knife often say they do it for protection; however, national data shows that 99% of young people, under 29 years old, do not carry a knife. The workshops dispel ideas such as this and show young people how they are putting themselves at more risk by carrying a knife.

Funded by the Stoke-on-Trent Community Safety Partnership, the Youth Offending Services, Supporting Families and Staffordshire Police have already delivered the Virtual_Decisions Knives programme to almost 300 children living in Stoke-on-Trent. The workshop has been positively received with 99% of children stating the programme had made them think about the consequences of knife crime and 92% saying that they had learnt something new.

Chief Inspector Robert Hessell, force lead for knife crime, said:

“It’s vitally important that we continue to encourage conversations around knife crime within our communities.

“We are pleased to be working with partners to educate young people on the dangers and consequences of carrying a knife. We know that the vast majority of young people don’t carry them, but we want to be proactive in our education and engagement with these groups to help them stay away from criminality.

“Knife crime can affect families from various backgrounds and areas. It’s important we break down the stigma and encourage open and honest discussions on the topic to help put a stop to it in Staffordshire.”

Director of Round Midnight, Claire Downes said:

“We are delighted to be working with the VRA on this important project. The Virtual_Decisions programme is an incredibly powerful tool and has been really well-received by young people.

“They find it engaging and immersive, and helps them to recognise the signs of exploitation and understand the risks and consequences of carrying a knife. The workshops and follow on curriculums will help to reinforce the learning and provide young people with the skills they need to make informed decisions.”

Find out more, including the Virtual_Decisions trailers here


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