Lessons that no student new to Leeds can afford to miss
ROBBERY, burglary, assault, theft, fraud '“ crimes with the potential to affect any one of us.
But the thousands of new students who have arrived in the city over the past month are among the most vulnerable.
Just a few days into Freshers’ Week, one international student had already been targeted by a bogus caller posing as a Home Office official and demanding fees in exchange for permission to remain in the UK.
Others have found themselves becoming the unwitting pawns in money laundering schemes in the past, with funds transferred in and out of their bank accounts for ‘training schemes’ for jobs that never materialised.
The influx of students is usually followed by an autumn spike in reported crime as the criminal fraternity take full advantage of laptops left unattended in the library, shared houses with unlocked front doors and people walking home from the city’s bars late at night.
It is the task of the Inner North West policing team and its liaison officers to teach students about the risks and how to keep themselves safe.
PC Matt Guy, the dedicated officer for the University of Leeds, said a key message is also getting students to look out for each other.
He said: “You always plan going out, but you never plan on getting home. You’re hoping to get lucky, stop out late, there’s no plan about that.
“You’ve got a friend who’s really drunk, you chuck them in a taxi and stay out to have a good time. That’s when they’re at their most vulnerable.”
During dozens of talks delivered since term began, he has also spoken about how he intervened when he saw a woman being harassed at a busy bus stop.
“Everyone was turning their back, so I stopped and challenged that,” he said.
“If that’s happening during the day on a sunny afternoon, what’s the chance of getting people to do this in a nightclub?
“If people don’t feel safe to challenge it, get someone who will – a security officer or police officer.”
The team works with students on a peer-to-peer safeguarding scheme and gives support on campus to victims.
Leeds Beckett University officer PC Mark Fox said: “If a student gets assaulted in the city centre, someone will let me know and I’ll follow it up.
“Likewise, if a student is arrested for drug offences, we go through the governance side so they can be disciplined.”
But the aim is always to promote the simple actions that can stop students becoming victims in the first place.
It can be as basic as investing in a bike lock, not leaving a mobile phone on display in the cafeteria or cutting the night short to go home with a friend who’s had too much to drink.
PC Guy said: “The message I put out is don’t dump your mates. It’s not until they’re home and safely back in bed that you’ve done your job.”
Click here for more student safety advice.