With schools closed in March, exams cancelled and the A-level results fiasco, it’s safe to say that our young people have well and truly been through the wringer during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Britain emerges tentatively from lockdown, students across the UK are preparing to head off to university for the next chapter of their lives. While freshers’ week is set to look vastly different this year, some things about the university experience will never change, even during a pandemic.
Security is one of these concerns, whether that’s securing your accommodation or looking after your personal safety. For many young people, this will be the first time they’ve lived independently from their parents, either in student accommodation or private rentals. There’s certainly a lot to learn and valuable life experience to gain. This comes naturally with time but to aid this process, and to ensure students stay safe in the meantime, we decided to put together a student security guide for new and returning uni students.
Criminals consider students to be an ‘easy target’ for burglary and theft. According to the Office for National Statistics, students are 7% more likely to be a victim of theft than the rest of the population, with criminals keen to take advantage of this new-found independence and the fact that 70% of student accommodation is empty during the holidays. Ensure your property’s doors and windows have adequate locks and make sure you use them when you’re out and about. As many burglaries are ‘walk-in’ thefts (with criminals often accessing the property through unlocked or opened doors), it’s also best to keep doors locked even if you’re home.
On average, students are more likely to own more high-value items such as laptops, phones and electronic goods than the rest of the population, making them a profitable target for thieves. To protect your belongings, make sure they’re kept out of sight and out of view from windows or doors. If you’re living in a multiple occupancy house, you may be able to lock your individual room, which could provide an extra layer of protection for your belongings.
As for potential hiding places for valuables, an experienced thief will know all the typical hidings spots. If you think hiding your jewellery or cash under the mattress or in your sock draw will keep them safe, think again. Get creative and consider hiding your most precious belongings in repurposed food containers or hollowed out books. If it’s of great sentimental value, consider leaving it safe at your parents’ home.
While any reputable landlord will have home insurance covering the building and their possessions (carpets, soft furnishings, anything belonging to the landlord), it’s up to you to insure your personal belongings such as your bike, laptop, clothes and other technology. You can often find insurance deals designed especially for students which will offer protection from theft and hazards such as fire and flooding, taking into account the unique situation of students living in halls or MHOs. You can easily find the best deals using price comparison sites. While it can be tempting to save money and skip on insurance, it could save you thousands of pounds in the long run, and will give you extra peace of mind that your valuables can be replaced should the worst happen.
Many students rely on cycling to get from A to B, but bicycles are a profitable target for thieves. With around 376,000 bicycles stolen each year in the UK, insuring your bike is a no brainer and, as previously mentioned, you can lump this in with your contents insurance.
For extra protection and to ensure your insurance stays valid, investing in a good quality bike lock is of paramount importance. When you’re on campus you should lock up your bike at a bike shed, using a second lock to protect removable parts such as the wheels. You could even remove the seat and pop it in your backpack to make it less attractive to criminals. When at home, it’s best to bring your bike inside overnight to prevent it from being stolen under the cover of darkness. For further reassurance, you can also register your bike with the Bike Register, a national UK database for bicycles approved by the Police. This will ensure that if your bike is stolen and recovered, the police will be able to reunite you with your property.
To criminals, your personal information can sometimes be just as valuable as your physical assets. With access to personal information, fraudsters can assume your identity and gain access to your bank account or other personal accounts, potentially having grave ramifications for your cybersecurity. You should ensure that any letters containing personal information, such as bank statements and bills, are disposed of safely via shredding. When it comes to online information, downloading anti-virus, using strong passwords, and avoiding oversharing on social media are all simple steps to protect yourself online.
As well as insuring your belongings, you should also register your valuable tech with immobilise.com, the UK national property register. This ensures that you can be reunited with your property, should it be lost or stolen, then retrieved. It also helps to combat the resale of stolen goods by flagging the device’s stolen or missing status. It’s free and easy to register your devices and could prove extremely helpful in identifying and returning your property if it does get stolen.
A big part of student life is socialising and partying. Although this year’s cohort has coronavirus and social distancing to contend with, there will no doubt be opportunities for nights out with new friends as the year goes on. While having a few drinks with your mates is perfectly normal for young people and students, ensuring you do so responsibly is the key to having a fun and safe night, and ensuring that you make memories for all the right reasons. At Churchill Security, we’ve previously created a top tip list for staying safe while out on the town. If you wish to read the whole article, click here. If not, the key things to remember are:
Not every rental property or student accommodation will have a spare key. Some keys are marked with ‘do not duplicate’, meaning that they can’t be copied by a locksmith without the landlord’s permission. If you’re lucky enough to have a spare key, however, don’t be tempted to leave it under a plant pot or your doormat. If someone is casing your property, this is likely to be the first place they’ll look. Leaving a spare key near your property leaves you liable to theft and will invalidate your insurance, meaning that your belongings will no longer be covered if stolen.
By law, you are entitled to 24 hours’ notice if your landlord wishes to enter the property or send someone round to complete repairs. You should therefore be aware if maintenance work is scheduled to be carried out. Legally, you do not have to admit anyone, be it a landlord or maintenance worker, if you have not received prior notice. If anyone tries to gain access to your property claiming to be a maintenance worker or a representative of the landlord, always ask for ID and try to contact your landlord for verification before letting them into your house. If you’re suspicious or feel unsafe, feel free to say ‘no’. Unless you have agreed it with your landlord in advance, you are under no legal obligation to let anyone into your home.
University can be as daunting as it is exciting. While some people take to uni life like a duck to water, for others, leaving home and being separated from their parents, family and school friends can be extremely difficult and can have an impact on their mental health. There’s a great pressure and expectation to make freshers’ week the highlight of your university experience. This isn’t always the case, however. It’s important to seek out help if you find yourself struggling, whether that’s from the university, friends or family. For universities, student mental health is a great priority, and there will often be counselling services, workshops and courses on offer for students struggling to adapt to uni life, academic pressure or mental health issues. For more information on dealing with emotional and mental wellbeing at university, visit Student Minds, the dedicated student portal for the UK mental health charity Mind.
From all of us at Churchill Security, we hope you have a safe and enjoyable year!
Churchill Security is a leading cross-industry security company supplying professional and comprehensive security solutions to organisations seeking expert Security Guards, CCTV & Event Security, Key Holding & Alarm Response, Mobile Patrols and Thermal Imaging & People Flow Technology.
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