Crime watch: Why students may think twice about studying in Manchester

The city has the highest numbers of burglaries, robberies and violent crimes outside London. What does that mean for students
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The Independent Online

Manchester has toppled Nottingham from pole position of most crime-ridden university city outside London, according to new figures published today. The city famous for its football teams and for its universities (Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan and Salford) beats all others for the number of burglaries, robberies and crimes of violence put together, says the Complete University Guide in its annual league table of crime.

Although there have been no gang-related killings in Manchester for at least a year following the jailing of the Gooch Gang, no one is complacent that the multiracial area of Moss Side, in which many students live, has turned a corner. There is new optimism, however, and the city's leaders must be hoping that its position at the top of this year's crime league table does not mark a new trend.

The second most crime-ridden city is Nottingham, followed by Liverpool, Bristol and Leeds. Although Nottingham is now in second place, it remains the burglary capital of the country, according to the figures for 2005/07 which come from the Home Office. Students are particularly vulnerable to being burgled because of all the laptops, sound systems and other equipment they have.

Bernard Kingston, founder of the Complete University Guide, says: "While these crimes are the three most commonly perpetrated against students, the figures relate to all victims, not just students. No such comparable data exist for university students, either on or off campuses, but it would be reassuring for university applicants and their parents if they did. It is clearly a matter of considerable concern when considering where to study as an undergraduate."

For the second year running the safest places to study are Lancaster, Canterbury and Bath, all relatively quiet cities. These three "old" universities are set apart from these cities in beautiful green campuses.

Manchester University refused to comment. Manchester Metropolitan University said: "We work closely with the police to make our students aware of the risk of crime and encourage them to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their belongings."

Salford University says that, two years ago, it introduced a security scheme called Campuswatch run by 120 volunteers and, since then, crime has fallen by 10 per cent. Lancaster University, situated outside the safest university town, also has an active student safety campaign as well as a dedicated police team on campus.

Nottingham says that more up-to-date figures show that crime in the city has dropped by 26.1 per cent from March 2007 to September 2009. "Nottingham is a thriving, welcoming city which remains among the most popular choices for students," said a spokesman.

Liverpool also says that crime in the city has been going down and that it takes the issue of security very seriously.

The table lists crime rates in 25 towns and cities, excluding London, that contain two or more universities. English and Welsh cities are kept separate from the Scottish cities because the data is collected differently, but all the figures represent three-year figures per 1,000 population.

Bernard Kingston points out that local statistics on crimes against students are not available in Britain, and universities do not have to publish figures about campus crime as they do in the US, so the material here is all that anyone has to go on.

In the US, all colleges and universities are required by law to report the number of campus crimes each year and what they are doing to improve security. This law was passed after a shocking attack at a university in Pennsylvania when a female student was raped and murdered in the middle of the night by another student, who had entered her hall of residence to burgle.

Universities are no longer the havens of safety they once were. About one in three students is a victim of a crime each year. Moreover, 16- to 24-year-olds are three times more likely to be victims of burglary than people in other age groups.

Why is this? One reason is that students provide easy pickings to burglars on the lookout for high-value consumer goods such as mobile phones, TV sets, DVD players, BlackBerries and computers. As students live in multi-occupied housing, burglars can lay their hands on a tidy haul.

In addition, their accommodation is often in run-down areas, where they are more exposed to crime than they would be in more affluent neighbourhoods. And their properties may not be secured well, either because their landlords may not have bothered with locks or alarms, or because the students have not taken the necessary precautions.

The Home Office and the National Union of Students urge undergraduates to take out insurance and report crimes, and universities are taking the issue of security much more seriously, ensuring that campuses are properly lit and halls of residence well secured.

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