Family support is crucial for those affected by crime. Sarah Morrison reports
Young people, it seems, really should learn to listen to their elders. In fact, while students are one of the most likely groups in society to fall victim to crime, a recent National Union of Students (NUS) report found that parents could play a key role in ensuring their safety.
The soon-to-be-published NUS Student Crime Research report, which was carried out between January and March of this year and in which more than 3,000 students from universities in England and Wales participated, found that crime affects one in five of all students, with 43 per cent feeling that students are at a higher risk of becoming victims of crime than others in the community.
But while students felt they needed better levels of support from the police station, university security, academic departments and student unions, the report found that students affected by crime "clearly welcomed" the support of their parents and friends.
In response to the survey, which found that students are susceptible to being victims of crime regardless of whether they are at university in a city or on a campus, the NUS wants information to be sent to the parents of students before their children start university, giving guidance on how they can help them stay safe.
"The report clearly highlights the crucial role parents play in supporting students who have been victims of crime," says Ben Whittaker, vice-president for welfare at the NUS. "To reduce crime across university campuses, we must make sure parents play a key role in helping to educate students about crime prevention. The NUS will be working alongside the Home Office to ensure parents play a more prominent role in the year ahead."
According to the Home Office, people aged 16 to 24 are three times more likely to be the victims of burglary than people in any other age group. Yet 41 per cent of students surveyed by the NUS did not report being a victim of crime to the police.
Last year, the Home Office awarded the NUS 175,000 to prevent student burglary rising during the economic downturn and they channelled it into a student crime prevention campaign. As well as conducting this research, the NUS organised two national crime conferences and established a student crime website, The Lock, where students can find tips on how to stay safe. This year, the Home Office has allocated a further 160,000 for the NUS crime project, although this is being reviewed by the Home Office.
Yet for Liam Challenger, associate president of community well- being at Leeds Metropolitan University students' union, keeping safe while studying is not "rocket science". After Leeds Universities and Colleges Crime Reduction Partnership was awarded more than 70,000 by the Home Office last year, Challenger said that "partnership" between students, students' unions, parents and police officers has proved essential in combating crime.
"Universities are safe places, but it is also about changing people's culture before they arrive and making sure they have thought things through - this is when parents can come in," he says. "Students have to remember to do the same things they would take for granted at home - for example, lock all your doors and don't leave a laptop or keys next to an open window. …