Fears Continue to Rise Over Student Safety
By Naomi Wilson
Two weeks on from the alarming daylight attack on a student in Southampton fears for safety in the city are still heavily felt.
It was approximately 5pm on Tuesday 25th January when the woman was assaulted as she entered Palmerston Park after leaving Southampton Solent University.
The attacker - who is yet to be identified - grabbed the 25-year-old student from behind and covered her mouth before piercing her neck with a sharp implement. The victim managed to kick herself free and flee the park to make her way home. She was later taken to hospital to be treated for minor injuries and the shock of the ordeal.
Though the attack was of an unusual nature, it proves to be just one of many regular assaults in the city centre.
Recent statistics released by the Hampshire Constabulary show the central Bargate area to be more dangerous than any other part of the city; with 225 incidents of violent crime having occurred in December 2010.
Such statistics prove a worrying trend, and as central Southampton hosts such a large student population it poses a question as to how safe young adults in the city are.
As a result, the Bargate region is now perceived as a dangerous and threatening place, where students cannot feel safe or protected.
Katy Kennedy, 21, a graduate from Southampton University said she never feels at ease when alone in the city.
“I don’t feel particularly safe. I seem to walk faster and avoid other people when I am on my own.”
Working for the University and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF), Kennedy understands that young adults are more likely to be the victim of assault.
“I think it is the time that students are out that makes them more vulnerable and susceptible to attack.”
She added: “Though, of course it’s not just students, I think it’s anyone between 16 and 25 years of age who are at risk.”
Kennedy also feels the council and other local authorities do not do enough to secure the Bargate area and advise young adults on staying safe.
“They seem to be good at creating a scare with police notices about crimes that have happened,” she said. “But you don’t actually see any advice.
“There should be more police community support officers out and about, because you don’t see them in the parks in the evening at all. The council could also provide some sort of a dial-a-ride service like they have for the elderly. It would make sure people got home safely.”
Despite this, Southampton Council member, Derek Stevens, claimed students to be safe from assault in the city centre.
He said: “I don’t think students are a target in terms of violence.”
Stevens, who works for the Safe City Partnership, had the opinion that students are, in effect, responsible for their own safety. He claimed: “They are a target in terms of theft. They have laptops, iPods and iPhones. They leave their premises wide open, with their doors unlocked and windows open.”
This comes as recently published reports show burglaries to have increased by 76.1 per cent in the month of January alone.
However, Stevens insisted that recent statistics do not provide a reason for fear among young Southampton residents.
“We have reduced violent crime by eight per cent and criminal damage by 18 per cent, and crime overall has fallen by 14 per cent.”Nevertheless, these figures seem to offer little comfort. In a city where reports of crime against students remain at a high level it seems there will always be fear for safety in the area.