The Guild of Students Officer Team have demanded that the University of Birmingham take more action to protect students living in Selly Oak
The online petition, which has amassed almost 7,000 signatures, calls for the University to take a more active role in the community to ensure the safety of students.
They request that the University’s security staff increasingly patrol the streets of Selly Oak, an approach which has been successful implemented in other universities such as Bristol and Manchester. Other proposals include lobbying landlords to improve the security of student housing. They also direct the report to the local council, asking them to work with the university to improve CCTV provisions in the area.
The petition asks the University to use its political influence to enact change in the local community. The authors praise the ‘wonderful support’ from the local police and acknowledge national funding cuts to local services. However, they believe that more can be done to make students feel safe.
Speaking to Redbrick, Guild President Reece Patrick Roberts said: ‘I felt the need to create a petition because every year I have been in Birmingham we have always ended up with an increase in crime as the nights get darker […] Although the Guild is playing its role in being proactive in the community, we want the promises made to students by the University to be followed through and not simply to fall on the backburner.
‘[Students] feel their concerns are not being listened to.’
The petition was posted just days after a 22-year-old man, who was not a UoB student, was stabbed on Heeley Road. Police reports have confirmed that a 15 year-old boy has been charged with attempted murder, while another teenager remains in custody with six counts of attempted robbery. The victim is in a critical yet stable condition in hospital.
In a statement posted in response to the events, the University have written that ‘the safety of students is of critical importance’, and that they are ‘working closely’ with West Midlands Police and the Guild of Students to ‘respond to safety concerns.’
They also told Redbrick: ‘At the beginning of this term, the police presence was increased in the Bournbrook area, with four officers now on duty every night from 23:00 to 06:00. Additionally, officers have been patrolling Selly Oak during the day and asking people to confirm their identity, to get a sense of who is around. Following this incident, there will be a further visibly increased police presence to reassure residents in the area.
‘Additional security that was put in place for this term following student feedback includes five Special Constables who will patrol campus in partnership with the Police in coming weeks, part-funded by the University. This supports well established work led by the Guild through Community Wardens. Further measures to increase the safety and security of students are being put in place and will be announced in the coming weeks.’
In the wake of the stabbing on Sunday, the Facebook group Fab N Fresh saw a spike in posts regarding concerns about student safety. Between Monday 8th and Tuesday 9th at 21:00, there were more than 60 posts on the page that concerned student safety.
One student wrote: ‘The crime rate in Selly Oak is getting out of control. The university is making huge investments on campus but is completely forgetting to invest back into the students.’
Some directed their comments directly to the Vice-Chancellor: ‘I’m sure Sir Dave has enough money in his piggy bank to fund some proper and fully-trained security for the student neighbourhood.’
Guild Officers agree that student safety has not been prioritised by UoB, but emphasise that they are taking measures to combat the issue. They reassure students that they ‘continually work with the university and the police to address issues of crime and safety in areas around the university.’
Two new schemes are being launched this term aimed at improving student safety. The Streetwatch Volunteer Scheme will introduce volunteer patrols on the streets of Selly Oak. Guild Officers hope this will provide more on-hand help for students in distress.
The introduction of a new safety bus has also been brought forward. At the Guild Officer Question Time on Monday, Roberts announced that this is only a trial scheme. He urged students to ‘please use this service’ so that the University considers introducing a second bus.
Students are urged to phone 101 if they have any information that may be relevant to the police, or dial 999 in an emergency. The University has also stated that students needing support in the wake of the violent crime in Selly Oak are encouraged to speak to staff at the Aston Webb Student Hub, Community Living Hub at Bournbrook or the Police & Security Office in University Centre.