University funds pay for extra police on patrol
Student areas targeted
UNIVERSITIES in the North East are paying hundreds of thousands of pounds to pay police to protect their students amid fears they may be easy targets for criminals.
Dedicated patrols are among the measures deployed to prevent campuses being attractive to thieves and drug dealers, according to a Freedom of Information request by The Times.
More than £2m has been paid out to 17 police forces over the past three years by 27 universities, and at least £1.2m is set to be spent in this academic year, The Times reports.
Durham University has agreed to contribute £35,000 for each of the next three years to protect students.
In Northumbria the force has received more than £400,000 in the past three years from three universities.
In addition to campus officers, Newcastle University and Northumbria University are paying for a scheme, Operation Oak, which is to “fund more bobbies on the beat” in student areas as well as “targeted” extra patrols on Friday and Saturday nights.
A fifth of all universities are spending millions of pounds to fund officers, including dedicated patrols, amid concerns that campuses have become a “magnet” for thieves and drug dealers.
According to data obtained under freedom of information laws, the 27 universities are contributing to police budgets in exchange for protection.
Officers said it was a “sad reflection” on the state of policing that universities felt they needed to pay to ensure that students were kept safe.
Under the schemes, universities pay police forces in return for officers patrolling campuses or student areas, or contributing to wider community projects.
While officers are dedicated to protecting students, they are not employed by the university and report to the chief constable.
The arrangement means that universities can hold on to dedicated officers while the number of neighbourhood police in other communities has fallen, a fact that some critics fear could increase tensions between “town and gown”.
Police budgets have decreased by 19% since 2010 and the overall number of officers has gone down by 20,000 over the same period.
There have been warnings that students are vulnerable to crime as they often live in high-density accommodation and own hardware such as laptops, tablets and phones.
Robbery, burglary, violence and sex offences are the crimes most likely to affect students.
Sue Broadbent, head of student support and wellbeing at Northumbria University, said on Operation Oak: “The contribution of additional funding allows Northumbria University, along with our city-partners Newcastle University and Northumbria Police, to provide reassurance that we are committed to promoting good relations between students and their neighbours.”
Northumbria Police Neighbourhood Inspector Dave Millican said: “Operation Oak has been a huge success and that would not have been possible without the support of the universities.
“This type of funding allows us to deploy targeted patrols in student communities to ensure they are safe and keeping out of trouble.”
Operation Oak also allows Northurmbria University and Newcastle University, with Newcastle Council and Northumbria Police, to help reduce the impact of anti-social behaviour of students in the local community.
The universities’ contribution towards Operation Oak helps to provide two extra officers to patrol Jesmond, Heaton and Ouseburn at various nights of the week.
■ Police forces are being paid to ensure patrols on streets popular with students