Crime text scheme at campus is big success

18th June 2004 at 01:00
Bradford students are being urged to report crime using email and text messaging in Britain's largest community watch scheme.

More than 50,000 students and staff at Bradford college and the city's university, which have neighbouring campuses, are taking part in the scheme with West Yorkshire police.

Campus Watch was launched as an experiment after a Home Office study last year found 60 per cent of crime against or involving students went unreported.

The scheme has resulted in such a significant rise in reporting of crimes, including theft of mobile phones and serious assault, that it has now been made permanent.

A computer link to the police has been created on the intranet system, enabling staff and students to report incidents and to highlight concerns.

They can ask for advice and protection by sending text messages to a security control room, monitored around the clock. They can also contact security staff when they are about to make a journey, so they can be monitored by CCTV.

Emergency telephone numbers linked to security staff within the college and university have also been installed. Mark Hirst, security manager at Bradford college said: "This is about making students and staff feel more secure and reducing any fears about crime.

"We are aware that some people don't always like talking to a uniform so this is a more informal way for them to contact us and the police."

Kate Sutcliffe, co-ordinator of Community Watch, a crime-prevention initiative in Bradford South, said: "Students are notoriously bad at reporting crime.

"Email and text messaging is a natural form of communication for students.

It's very accessible and it enables information to be rapidly exchanged.

"It's also less intimidating than walking into a police station. People have emailed us when they would rather not make a formal complaint.

"I have received information about stolen property, including mobile phones and purses, and more serious incidents such as assault and people concerned about friends with drugs and alcohol problems," she said.

"I'm able to meet people face to face once they've made initial contact by email, and I can also refer them on to other agencies, for example, environmental health and drugs and alcohol agencies.

"If they want to take a matter further after speaking to me or security staff then we can support them. If they don't, that's okay too. We treat all information as confidential. Having it helps us to know where best to place our resources."

Campus Watch is being promoted via posters and wallet-size cards listing all the contacts.

Ms Sutcliffe will hold drop-in sessions at both the college and university campuses once a week from September.

The Home Office study of campus-related crime expressed concern over the amount that went unreported. Several recommendations in the report for reducing crime included the promotion of Campus Watches.

Hatty Slovak, women's officer at the University of Bradford, said: "Email and text messaging is a more subtle form of communication. If someone's seen something or feels threatened in the library, for example, they don't want to be visible in asking for help by making a phone call.

"The college campus is close to ours so we tend to have similar incidents.

Working in partnership is really helpful, particularly when we are pinpointing crime trends."

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