Living independently for the first time gives you a lot of freedom but in doing so makes you vulnerable to crime. However, staying safe is simply a matter of exercising common sense.
High Crime Risk
According to recent government statistics, young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are at the highest risk of being a victim of crime. Students have a large part to play in this troubling statistic, with 1 in 3 being the victim of a crime each year.
Students are particularly vulnerable to crime because in owning more expensive consumer goods per head than any other demographic, they are an attractive target for thieves, and their outgoing lifestyle and poor home security makes them an easy target.
Aware of the high crime risk of their students, universities across the UK employ various precautions to try to ensure safety. Campus universities are naturally better protected than those spread out across a city, and usually protect their students by employing security staff to monitor and patrol the area.
The risks involved with unlicensed taxis and walking home at night have prompted some universities to set up bus services to ferry students between the university and off-site accommodation.
Nevertheless, there is only so much the university can do. It is largely up to the students themselves to take precautions to ensure their safety.
Student Home Security
The largest number of incidents reported by students involve criminal damage and theft, particularly from student properties. This is not so surprising given that a recent survey found that more than 30% of students had no security locks on doors or windows.
One of the key things to look out for when choosing a student property is whether the accommodation has decent window locks (ideally key lockable) and deadlocks fitted on all outside doors. Rather than a flash burglar alarm system, good quality locks are the essential security feature.
Locks are worthless, however, unless the occupants remember to use them to lock up the property when leaving it. It may sound obvious but many burglaries actually occur when a door or window has been left open.
With the student population density of campus halls of residence, you may think that your belongings are relatively safe from outside interests. However, thieves commonly take advantage of the relative anonymity of a large student population to sneak in and out undetected, particularly at the start of the university year when most people don’t know one another.
For this reason, don’t let people into your building that you don’t recognise. Also always lock your bedroom door, even if you are just nipping down the corridor.
Insuring and Marking Your Belongings
It is strongly advised to get your belongings insured against theft. Most insurance companies offer special student deals that will provide peace of mind and could ultimately save you a lot of money in replacing your valuables.
One thing insurance won’t be able to do is get your prized belongings back. So in addition to insuring your items, it is recommended to keep lists of the make, model and serial numbers of any electronic items, and mark them with your postcode using a UV pen, as this will help the police track them down if they are stolen.
One effective technique in putting thieves off taking your belongings in the first place is to visibly mark them with your university initial and student number, as this will make it difficult for them to be sold on.
Students are also at risk when walking the streets. However some basic rules of common sense will significantly reduce the chance of becoming a victim of street crime.
In order not to attract the attentions of thieves, it is wise to keep any valuable items, such as a mobile phone or MP3 player out of sight when in public. Many incidents of theft occur on the spur of the moment.
Safety After Dark
Criminals are on the lookout for an easy target, so to avoid attracting their attention it is sensible to follow some basic rules of common sense when out and about after dark. Walking with other people and keeping to well-lit and busier roads can help reduce the risk.
It is also advisable not to use cash machines after dark, but instead better to think ahead and get money out during the daytime. Even so, always be on your guard when drawing money out and never keep your pin number on your person.
To prevent being stranded away from home after a night out, and forced to walk or opt for an unlicensed mini-cab, it is advisable to make a note of the last train and bus times before heading out. Alternatively, stay over with friends if it means you don’t have to travel back alone.