Univer­sity funds pay for ex­tra police on pa­trol

Stu­dent ar­eas tar­geted

Sunday Sun - - News - By Lisa Hutchin­son Re­porter lisa.hutchin­[email protected]­plc.com @lisachron

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

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