Bristol must do more to protect victims of burglary



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Will Charley argues that the University needs to do more to protect students who fall victim to burglaries.

Searching for Motion tickets on a student Facebook group the other night, I stumbled across a post by students stating how they had just been burgled in Redland, complete with pictures of a door that had clearly been crow-barred open.

The very thought of being burgled seemed ridiculous to me. As a first year in halls in Stoke Bishop, my biggest worry is that I will lose my door key on a night out, not that I will return to find my door hanging off its hinges. Nonetheless, since I’m moving to Redland myself next year, I decided to do some digging.

According to the official Police.UK website, there have been over 50 burglaries reported in a one-mile radius of Redland last December. More worryingly, in the period of September to December 2017, there were 243 burglaries within that one-mile radius of Redland. Not only that, there were 82 reports of bike theft in the same area, September to December.

"Bristol students are heavily targeted by criminals, most of whom are aware that students often lack adequate security, being first-time renters"

Let’s just think about that for a moment.

Redland is one of Bristol’s most popular areas for students to move to in second year, with the one-mile radius including other very popular areas such as Clifton Down, Whiteladies’ Road, and much of Cotham, as well as the less well-known Bishopston and St Andrews. In essence, what the crime statistics reveal is that Bristol students are heavily targeted by criminals, most of whom are aware that students often lack adequate security, being first-time renters.

However, it is not just students living in Redland. In a one-mile radius around Clifton, there were 153 burglaries reported and staggering 103 bike thefts between September and December of last year.

"Burglars usually steal laptops and other devices, often causing massive problems for students studying at the university"

It is time for the university to take some responsibility.

Whilst some might argue that it is not the University’s responsibility to protect their students, especially when they are in private accommodation, I mostly strongly disagree. Burglars usually steal laptops and other devices, often causing massive problems for students studying at the university, since almost all work is carried out on these. Since students are now increasingly being recognized as ‘customers’ of higher education, it is the universities responsibility to ensure that students can successfully carry out their degree unhindered.

More than that, it is widely recognised that burglary and theft can be highly traumatic for some individuals, leaving students feeling unsafe in their own home. No student paying nine thousand pounds should be left unable to carry out their degree to the best of their ability as a result of the university openly negating its duty of care.

However, aside from critics who might argue that the university should not come to the aid of second and third year students, some (including the University itself) suggest that they are in fact unable to help whatsoever. As the University puts it: ‘Sadly student accommodation is often targeted by burglars.’ Their solution: insurance. I think that they can do more.

The university actively protects its first-year student community in Stoke Bishop, using security officers, a 24-hour hotline, and a fleet of security patrol cars that are regularly seen roaming between the university campus and Stoke Bishop. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that crime statistics for the University’s halls are considerably lower.

In the same period as previously examined, in a one-mile radius of Stoke Bishop, there were only 39 burglaries reported and a shocking (wait for it) two reports of bikes being stolen. I am no mathematician but that means that where the University actively protects, there are 84% less reports of burglary and 98% less reports of bikes being stolen, when compared to Redland.

"If the University of Bristol provided more information on preventing burglary, I am sure that students would feel safer"

Of course, I am not an idiot, (well not completely). There is more to the lack of crime in Stoke Bishop than just wannabe bouncers and the occasional fake cop car. But what I think it does reveal is that there is definitely an argument for the University to take more responsibility over guarding its main student communities.

If the University of Bristol provided more information on preventing burglary and drove the occasional patrol car through Redland and Clifton on a late night out, I am sure that students would feel safer and that the rate of burglary would drop from just under two reports every single day, (based on my survey of Redland, September to December 2017.)

Fundamentally, with the provision of a health and mental health service, as well as campus security, a student union and even its own letting agency, the University openly acknowledges that it has a duty of care towards its students. In the wake of a ridiculously high crime rate, why can’t this be extended to protecting vulnerable first-time renters from being burgled?

Put simply, the University of Bristol should be doing more to protect its students.

A University of Bristol spokesperson responded: “The safety and wellbeing of staff and students is of utmost importance to us. The University’s Security Services and resident Police Officer work hard to ensure our estate, including the halls of residence, are safe 24/7. Our online e-induction and UniSmart presentations for students entering university residences are designed to support students transitioning into independent living and cover a range of topics including security, personal safety and community living.

“It would be impossible for our security services to patrol the wider city and monitor private residences, however we work closely with Avon and Somerset Police and issue personal safety advice to students living in privately rented accommodation. We urge students to use the Police non-emergency number 101 to report any damaged property, vehicle theft or suspicious activity in their area, or to ring 999 in an emergency situation.”

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Will Charley

Deputy Editor |Formerly Comment and Deputy Online News Editor | Final year history student | Shortlisted nationally by the SPA for Best News Story | @willcharley1