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Crime in Selly Oak: what can be done?

As crime rates are rising in the area, what can students do to prevent themselves from becoming a victim?

Jonny Kirby, the Vice President for Housing and Community began by stating that ‘Selly Oak has three times the regional rate of burglary. Unfortunately, if you come to the University of Birmingham 1 in 3 of us will become a victim of crime while we are here.’

The number of occupants in Selly Oak houses is often as high as six people or more.

Not only has this skewed the crime statistics for the area, but it also means that there is a large amount of valuables within the house. This makes the area an attractive target.

Police Constables James Duffy and Richard Adams explained that many police had gone on patrols throughout Selly Oak looking for potential targets.

They said that there are frequently houses that would either have windows open with valuables that could be taken on show or their doors unlocked.

In some cases they would have been able to reach in and take laptops or enter the house unnoticed. In these cases the tenants were notified of their vulnerability to burglary.

Kirby also noted that ‘when a student looks around a house they consider whether it has got double beds, its proximity to campus. Not necessarily if there is a fence that goes all around the house, if there are gate locks, whether the windows have the proper locks on.’

It’s also easy to tell what a student house looks like, as there will frequently be tell-tale signs such as more rubbish outside due to the number of people who occupy the residence, or a Vodbull poster in the window.

Furthermore, students who are new to Selly Oak who have moved from the Vale may not be acclimatised to the crime that is there.

Last year there were only two crimes reported on the Vale, both bike thefts. Sometimes the difference between the two is not fully appreciated amongst students.

What are the police doing about it?

The police have set up a plain clothes task force to deal with burglary in Selly Oak specifically. Both Police Constable James Duffy and Richard Adams have been a part of this for over a month.

Part of their task has been to keep tabs on a list of target people that are essentially listed potential offenders who are known to frequent the area. In these cases letters have been sent to them, in an attempt to try and act as a deterrent.

Spotting other potential suspects can be a particularly difficult area of their work; as there are thousands of people, picking out the right people is very difficult.

The team has also been looking to increase awareness, including a door knocks by police officers and talking to students along the ‘student grid.’ There have also been uniformed police standing outside of the Goose at the OVT pub handing out literature on crime awareness.

West Midlands police has also been given a £2,000 grant to install Lojack, a computer program for laptops, which can track the computer; enabling them to ‘deal with the aftermath.

Sometimes, however, there is little that the police can do to respond to reported incidents. Even in cases where they are half a mile away from an incident and arriving quite quickly, and the suspects can be gone by the time that the first responders arrive.

What are the guild doing about it?

Johnny Kirby’s election manifesto had focussed heavily upon crime, as he felt that it was something that had not been given enough attention to in recent years.

‘The first thing that we have done is to work very closely with the city council on the ‘Safer Birmingham Partnership’ to do a big crime campaign’, Kirby explained. This is notable throughout much of Selly Oak, particularly in advertisements on phone booths.

Kirby has also launched ‘Selly Watch’ this year, fulfilling one of his campaign promises. Selly Watch is a text service designed to keep students ‘one step ahead of a burglar’ and also provides statistics for those who sign up. If there is an incident in your area, you will receive a text to inform you of the incident and to keep you informed.

Next term, the Guild is looking to do more work on ‘people crime’, which involves lobbying for more street lights where they are needed, and more police to try and make those who live in Selly Oak feel safer.

However, where the Guild does struggle with regard to Selly Oak is that ‘the resources we have got and impetus that we have in Selly Oak is nowhere near the amount we have in halls.’

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