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Uni living: safety first

A few simple steps can keep you out of harm’s way says Megan Haddow

Living independently for the first time can be daunting in many ways, and while it is exciting to finally be free of any boundaries and restrictions, it is also important to remember to keep yourself safe.

Government statistics on crime for 2006/07 indicate that young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are at the highest risk of being a victim of crime, with young women in that age group at the highest risk overall.

Students are more at risk than any other occupational group, mainly because of their lifestyle. The problem is that universities can only do so much to ensure the safety of their students – the rest is up to you.

Safe and sound Universities take several precautions to ensure your safety, on campus in particular.A campus-based university may well be safer than one that’s spread through a city, as these are more difficult to monitor and patrol.

Universities such as Manchester and Royal Holloway (part of the University of London) have uniformed staff patrolling campus areas round the clock, both on foot and in identifiable vehicles. Royal Holloway also offers a service called the Non-Res Bus. This bus is designed to pick up students from the students’ union or bars on campus and take them to their residences off-campus, for the small price of £1 a journey (much cheaper than any taxi). Others have dedicated university emergency numbers and on-campus police officers. If you are trying to get home after a night out don’t cut costs by using an unlicensed mini-cab. Make sure you are aware of your surroundings at bus and train stations, and take note of the last train and bus times before you head out.

Keeping your head Alcohol adversely affects your judgement and perception. It is quite likely that you will go out and enjoy a drink with friends, so it’s important that you try to drink in moderation, and make sure you are with people you trust who are also drinking in moderation. Avoid any chance of getting your drink spiked by keeping your drink with you at all times. Do not drink leftover or discarded drinks or share drinks with other people, and do not accept drinks from anyone you don’t know.

When walking home at night it is just as important for men to take precautions as it is for women: the Government’s 2006/2007 crime survey notes that men between the ages of 16 and 24 are the most common victims of assault. Simple things like walking home with other people and sticking to well-lit and busy roads instead of taking shortcuts can reduce therisk.

Hands off Belongings and personal possessions are also at risk. The highest percentage of incidents reported by students involve criminal damage and theft. When out and about, keep your phone or MP3 player hidden rather than displaying it to passers-by, as many incidents of theft are committed spontaneously. Getting your belongings insured against theft is another must. Student houses are often targeted for burglary due to the probability that there will be a number of laptops, computers, televisions and other expensive electronic devices lying around. Most insurance companies offer special deals for students, so it will save you an enormous amount of money to insure – rather than replace – your belongings.

Lockdown Be careful to lock all the windows and doors when leaving your house; sounds obvious, but it will prevent any impromptu break-ins. If you are in halls of residence, don’t let in people that you don’t recognise; refer them to the main office if they want to get in. Another useful and very cheap precaution that can be taken is marking any expensive belongings with your postcode, as this will help police to recover them if they are stolen. This can be done with a UV pen – available from most hardware stores – which can’t be seen with the naked eyes. Just make sure your writing is neat.

Web watch

Home Office

Their special student safety section offers some simple guidelines for students

Drink Aware

Find out how many units it’s safe to drink on a night out www.drinkaware.co.uk

Victim Support

This organisation will point you in the right direction in the event of a crime www.victimsupport.org.uk