Over 20,000 students come to the north of the county to study each year at campuses including Lancaster University, the University of Cumbria and Lancaster and Morecambe College.
For many students it is their first time away from home and they will now be faced with not only getting to grips with lectures and making friends, but also the added responsibility of looking after both themselves and their property – away from the watchful eyes of parents.
Crime prevention officer Jan Brown is offering students the following advice so that they can avoid becoming a victim of crime and fully enjoy their university experience –
Halls are communal buildings, so there are a lot of people coming in and going out at all different times of day. This can create opportunities for passing thieves. Following a few simple steps can help prevent crime.
- Always lock your room’s doors and close windows, especially if on the first floor.
- Be aware of who lives around you – challenge people you don’t know trying to enter your corridor, or contact security if you are have any concerns.
- Don’t leave flat doors open so that friends can come in – thieves can then come in too.
Living off campus
Once you move out of halls, you leave a monitored environment and the onus is now well and truly on you to make sure your belongings are secure.
- Make sure doors and windows are locked when you go out.
- Keep valuables away from windows.
- Use a light timer switch to give the impression that someone is in the property, even when you are out.
- Ask your landlord to fit a door chain and use it every time someone knocks at the address.
- Don’t let anyone into your digs unless you know who they are, even if they are claiming to be from an official organisation. Ask to see identification and check it out – if in doubt, call the police.
Laptops, ipods, mobile phones – these days students can have a lot of valuable equipment and property. This can make you a tempting target for thieves.
- Lock property in your room when you are not using it. Do not leave it out on display near windows.
- Mark your postcode on to your property with an ultra violet marking pen. This will make it easier to return if it is stolen.
- Mobile phones are regularly reported stolen every week – most frequently from pubs and clubs. Keep them in a safe – preferably zipped up – place while you are out and about.
- Make a note of your phone's unique IMEI number - you can get this by tapping in *#06#. Write it down, keep it safe (but not on your phone!) and give it to the police and your network supplier if your phone happens to be stolen.
- Property also goes from cafes and other public places such as the library –don’t leave items unattended, even for a short time.
Bikes are a cheap method of transport for students –and thieves like them just as much.
- If you use a bike – lock and secure it each time you leave it, even if it is just to nip into a shop for a few minutes.
- Use a quality lock. Even better – use two locks
- Secure your bike to something substantial and put your chain through the frame, not just the wheel as this can be removed.
- If you can easily remove your bike seat and take it with you then do so.
This is possibly the fastest growing crime in the country and messy student accommodation can be the perfect place for criminals to find bills and other personal items left lying around.
- If property such as credit cards, passports and personal address details are stolen, you can find yourself the victim of identity theft. Report them as missing to the relevant authority as soon as possible.
- Destroy any item that has your name and address details on it, particularly bank statements or credit card bills, before disposing of them in the bin.
- Ideally use a shredder, or make sure that your details cannot be identified
You may be finding your way round a new city for the first time and you will definitely be soaking up the atmosphere and making the most of your time at uni – just make sure you stay safe while doing so.
- Always stick to well lit main routes through the city.
- If you go out as a group of friends – stay as a group.
- If one person wants to go home early make sure they are going to get there in one piece, or if you are disappearing (for what ever reason) – tell someone where you are going.
- Remember – safety in numbers – so stick together and never walk home alone.
- Keep enough money for a taxi. Don’t spend your last fiver on a burger – get home safe instead.
- Get a taxi from a licensed firm or taxi rank.
- Take care of your cash, but only take out what you will realistically need for an evening and avoid using cash machines at night –it is not worth the risk.
Alcohol is a traditional part of student life – but remember it isn’t a compulsory part of your university education! Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can affect your judgment, cause a health risk and leave you vulnerable to becoming a victim of crime.
- Pace your drinks and consider alternating alcoholic drinks with a soft drink or water - you will last the night out and you’ll save a bit of cash too.
- Drink spiking is rare (the amount of alcohol consumed is more often the problem.) Keep hold of your drink and don’t leave it on the side of the dance floor. Always watch your drink being poured – if someone offers to buy you a drink, go to the bar with them.
- Remember that drink lowers inhibitions and makes you more vulnerable to theft or assault. If something happens to you, report it to the police.
- Your behaviour may come at a cost –police officers take a zero tolerance attitude to drunken criminal behaviour. Penalty notices for disorder cost £80 - a fairly hefty fine for a student pocket – and a criminal record is not the kind of result you want to leave university with.