The Guild of Students Officers, alongside Police Constable Charlie Richards from the West Midlands police and representatives from the University, held a forum at the Guild Council Chambers addressing crime in Selly Oak
The forum was chaired by Reece Patrick Roberts, President of the Guild of Students. Roberts has advocated for a student-led solution to what was happening in Selly Oak to ‘make sure it never happens again’.
The forum was held during the same week in which a petition about Selly Oak safety was signed by 20% of students. Roberts wanted to ensure that the Selly Oak issue was properly addressed because ‘Selly Oak has been a problem for quite a long time’.
The forum started with Roberts, PC Richards, and the University Representatives each making a short statement and then there was a feedback opportunity where students could ask questions to those on the panel and make suggestions. Members of the panel first addressed the precautions that have already taken place to improve safety in Selly Oak, such as the Community Wardens who currently patrol Selly. Roberts also announced the launch of the pilot ‘Nightbus scheme, which will be run by the Guild for students who live in Selly Oak. Roberts wanted to ‘ensure that students are available to use our wonderful facilities’.
PC Richards, Campus Officer for the University of Birmingham, said she ‘totally understands concerns’ raised by students. She called the stabbing of a 22-year-old man in Selly Oak on Sunday 7th October an ‘isolated incident of horrific violence’ and kept urging students to report crimes to West Midlands Police. She stated: ‘if you don’t tell the police, we cannot target our patrols…and put people in the right place at the right time’.
PC Richards further explained that a lot of crime happens through ‘opportunity’ and urges students ‘remove the opportunity’ by keeping valuables such as laptops and smartphones safe and out of sight. PC Richards expressed her willingness to help out in any way she can and ‘will run personal safety workshops and crime workshops’ where she will teach skills such as basic self-defence. She reiterated the importance of transparency between Students and the Police, as it is vital for the Police to ‘understand what [students] need’ to help them.
Two representatives from the University stated that the UoB recognises that ‘there are some real concerns’ and that ‘increasing police presence’ is needed, which is why they have provided funding for five new police officers to be trained. The representatives said that the University ‘can be a catalyst for bringing different parties together’ and that it is ‘here to listen to your perspective’ when coming up with solutions for the situation in Selly Oak.
After the panel speakers made their statements, students were given an opportunity to ask questions and share ideas. Many students spoke passionately about their concern for safety in the area and rose issues such as feeling unsafe walking in the area, the lack of transparency of information between the University, the Guild and the Students, and the lack of CCTV cameras and security. All of these issues then got a response from the panel speakers.
The most reiterated point was that there needs to be more clarity and communication to the students, and PC Richards stated that safety is ‘always about educating people’ and that ‘clearly police advertising is not getting out there’. PC Richards expressed that she liked the idea of emailing students relevant information and the University Representatives added that it was an idea that could be further looked into.
The forum was then finished by Roberts, who strongly advocated that students get into contact with the police, the Guild of Students, and local authorities about their concerns, because ‘the sooner they are addressed, the better’.