SaferU is a nationwide university campaign that has been created by Crimestoppers with the aim of increasing student awareness of personal safety and crime prevention. The initiative began at the University of Northampton where it was trialled for 18 months before being extended for further trial at Anglia Ruskin and Plymouth Universities.
The National Union of Students estimates that around 400,000 crimes are committed against students each year and that one in five of those attending university will be victims at some stage of their university career.
“Typically, we see spikes in crime,” explains Paul Richards, Lecturer in Police Studies at Plymouth University. “The criminals know that when students arrive at university for the first time they are vulnerable, not knowing where they are supposed to be going or what they are supposed to be doing. They have a large amount of kit that is attractive to thieves and it is at these times that the crime statistics soar. This is a huge issue for the victims but also a huge issue for the university and the police who have to mop after such incidents.”
SaferU aims to use the student volunteers themselves to advocate awareness and safety.
“This works very well at Plymouth,” continues Richards “because the students from our Policing modules have to undergo an element of volunteering as part of their course and so the SaferU programme gives them that platform to work as a volunteer in a relevant area while giving something really useful back. And going on from university, of course, volunteering experience on the CV always looks good.”
Plymouth University has a regular committee made up of students, and then others who help out for specific campaigns.
One innovative and extremely successful SaferU campaign – ‘Stick it – Stole it’ - was carried out during fresher’s week to raise awareness of opportunistic thefts on campus. Volunteers from the university set about sticking ‘Stick it – Stole it’ stickers on numerous unattended possessions, leading students to realise just how carefully they have to guard their possessions so as not to end up as a crime statistic!
Other campaigns have included bicycle marking and UV marking. The committee is currently fundraising to purchase quantities of UV marker so that they can then offer a marking service to more students.
The programme has been a huge success in Plymouth and Devon and Cornwall Crimestoppers is proud to be part of such an important, national trial that it is planned will be rolled out to more universities in future years.