It’s the opposite of “Grand Theft Auto”!
The NYPD is plugging into a first-of-its-kind virtual-reality gaming system that puts young people in wild situations on the street — and urges them to make safe choices, officials said Tuesday.
The $1 million-plus program, which is believed to be the country’s first, features VR headsets and video-game-style controls that teens can use to avoid potentially dangerous encounters, police said at a press conference to announce the game.
Organizations such as schools, churches and other youth groups can use the software.
“We want to not just get kids in school but kids in the neighborhoods as well,” said Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison.
In one virtual scenario, a gang confronts the player in a park and asks him or her to join their crew. The player can choose to stay, go or talk to the troublemakers.
The so-called Options program encourages “emotional intelligence” and “deescalation” in a medium that teens can relate to, officials said.
“[It’s] the nexus of community engagement, cutting-edge technology and creative problem solving,” said Police Commissioner James O’Neill.
Other real-life-style situations players will encounter include being stopped by police or being asked to commit a crime.
“Public safety is a shared responsibility, and it’s crucial that we include the voice of our city’s youth in neighborhood policing,” he said.
The game was developed by Street Smarts VR, which also makes police training systems.
“All the scenarios you see [are] actually scenarios designed by the kids themselves,” said Detective Jason Anazagasty, a neighborhood coordination officer.
“They came up to us and said, ‘Listen, this is what we see all the time in Brownsville and East New York,’ ” he said.
“We want to help make sure they make their mistakes in the virtual world not in the real world.”
At least 300 students had already tested out the game Tuesday, police said.
The $1 million dollars to fund the program came from the New York City Police Foundation.
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