Teenagers were given a virtual reality experience as they learned about the dangers of knife crime.
The young people, participants at a regular community football session laid on by the police and Nottingham Forest Community Trust, took part in the session on Monday night as part of Operation Sceptre – a nationwide educational initiative.
By wearing a VR headset, they were placed in a life-like scenario revolving around a dispute between rival groups.
After meeting in a park, they were challenged to make multiple decisions about how they reacted to the dispute – each with its own positive or negative consequences.
Participants choosing the most confrontational options were eventually stopped, searched and arrested by police officers.
The age-appropriate Virtual Decisions simulation, produced by Birmingham-based company Round Midnight, features real officers from West Midlands Police and has been shown to thousands of young people since its launch four years ago.
Sergeant Paul Peatfield, of the Ashfield Operation Reacher Team, explained: “Part of our role is to build stronger relationships with our local community.
“We have been running these football sessions with the trust for some time and have previously spoken about knife-crime with our young people – but this technology really brings something extra to the table.
“I’ve had a go with it myself and can honestly say that it’s the most effective piece of youth engagement I have seen. The technology is really impressive and the reactions we have had from our young people have been excellent. It is certainly something that I would like to do more of in the future.”
Phil Hyde, creative manager at Round Midnight, said: “The headset experience is prat of a wider session that also includes a group discussion before and after the virtual reality experience which gives us a chance to talk about the decisions that have been made.
“We’ve been delivering these sessions for four years now and you can really see the impact this technology has on the users. It immerses young people in a way that gives them a physical memory – and when they take that headset off they do really want to talk about it.”
Dante Diriso, community engagement coordinator at the Nottingham Forest Community Trust, said: “This was a really effective session and I think the participants really gained something from it. Above all it opened discussions into things that I don’t think they would have with anyone else. Ultimately if this session can prevent even one person from picking up a knife in the future then it has been worthwhile.”