Young people are learning about the potentially life-changing consequences of throwing missiles at buses, trams and trains thanks to a hard-hitting virtual reality (VR) film commissioned by the Greater Manchester TravelSafe Partnership.
‘A Victimless Crime’, created with the help of VR production company RiVR, tells the story of Noah, a teenager who is pressured by a friend to throw a brick at a passing bus, which shatters a window and covers a mother and a baby with glass.
The injured woman is consoled by a bus driver who is left shaken by the incident, which also has a knock-on impact on his life. Noah ends up in trouble with the police, and he is left in a cell facing an uncertain future.
Secondary school pupils and college students are being shown the film through VR headsets, which puts them in the shoes of Noah, played by Waterloo Road’s Adam Ali, to drive home the consequences of Noah’s thoughtless actions.
While Noah’s story is fictional, it is based on real-life incidents that have happened across Greater Manchester’s public transport network. In the year to November 2023 the GM TravelSafe Partnership recorded 371 incidents of missiles targeting buses (271) and trams (100)*.
Stones, bricks, rocks are the most common type of objects thrown. However, all kinds of projectiles have been used including eggs, fireworks, glass bottles, fence panels, scaffolding joints, a chair, traffic cones and a bicycle. Missiles have also been fired from air rifles, bb guns, pellet guns or catapults.
These incidents can have a huge impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of passengers and drivers, while also having a knock-on effect on services with vehicles being taken out for repairs which can be costly.
While most young people are well behaved while using public transport, a significant number of crime or antisocial behaviour incidents reported on public transport – not limited to missiles – are youth-related.
In 2023 young people were responsible for 42% of all reported incidents on bus and Metrolink, with 45% of reported incidents at bus stations and interchanges also being attributed to youths.
Vernon Everitt, Transport Commissioner for Greater Manchester, said: “Everyone using or working on our public transport and active travel network is entitled to be, and feel, safe at all times. Crime and antisocial behaviour will not be tolerated.
“While the overwhelming majority of young people who travel by bus, tram or train do so with respect for fellow passengers and hardworking transport staff, there are some who persistently engage in antisocial behaviour without really considering the consequences their actions can have.
“These consequences are laid bare in this hard-hitting, immersive film which is being shown to young people across Greater Manchester, but the message is one that applies to everyone who uses public transport. I would urge everyone who sees the film to take its message onboard.”
The 30 VR headsets were bought by the GM TravelSafe Partnership through the Home Office’s Safer Streets Fund, which allows local authorities, transport bodies and police forces to invest in crime and antisocial behaviour prevention projects.
A Victimless Crime, which is primarily aimed to secondary school-aged pupils, is being rolled out to schools and colleges as part of the Travel Safe Partnership’s educational outreach programme, which has engaged with 9,962 young people since the start of the 2023/24 academic year.
While Noah’s fate is unknown by the end of the 14-minute film, after the credits roll the children can share their thoughts on what they think happens to the teenager, his family, the injured mother and the bus driver.
Kate Green, TfGM’s TravelSafe Partnership Manager, said: “The aim of this film is to highlight to young people the potentially life-changing consequences of taking part in criminal of antisocial behaviour on public transport.
“As Noah finds out one moment of madness or showing off can have far-reaching repercussions, which can range from being banned from using public transport or potential prosecution. What the film also shows is that there can be many victims of crime and antisocial behaviour.
“By using VR, which has become more prominent in the everyday lives of young people along with gaming and social media, we can deliver crucial messages to young people in an immersive and realistic way which we hope creates a more permanent memory of what we’re trying to get across.”