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Student Security Advice

14th September 2019

Ah, it’s September, the month that takes its name from septem, the Latin word for seven, because as we all know, September is the seventh month.  Isn’t it? Okay, just checking if you’re paying attention. Under the oldest Roman calendar, September actually was the seventh month out of ten, but then there was all sorts of jiggery-pokery involving calendar reform, with the two extra months of January and February added, leading to September becoming the ninth month instead. However, it kept its original name, and it even had a day added a bit later on, making it up to 30 days.  You’ll notice I’m trying to sound intelligent here (isn’t Wikipedia great?), and that’s because my thoughts have drifted towards our esteemed seats of learning – universities. The new term (or semester if that floats your boat) will be starting soon, and in amongst all that learning, there may well be the practicalities as your offspring move into a new place for the first time. But how can you make sure they remain as safe as possible in their new accommodation? 

Putting security arrangements in place can be more of a challenge for student living than for us “regular” folk. For one, the accommodation is very unlikely to be owned by the actual occupier, leaving students at the mercy of landlords or university management when it comes to security. Furthermore, with all the hustle, bustle, and nerves of starting a new phase of life, security is rarely going to be at the forefront of new students’ minds, with other factors taking priority – in a choice between parties and inspecting locks, the latter activity rarely wins out.

Despite this, security is an important consideration for new students, especially given the likelihood they will have new, expensive equipment such as fancy mobile phones, new laptops for college work, music players and the like – all prized possessions for the casual thief as they are nicely portable and can be easily sold on.  Its therefore no wonder that students are often prime targets for burglaries in their first few weeks at university. However, do not despair as there are still a number of steps that can be taken to try and make things more secure for the new term, and this stands whether the student in your life is staying in private or university-owned accommodation.

Accommodation owned by the university, generally in the guise of halls of residence, or arms-length managed flats should generally be the more secure option, as universities are usually pretty hot when it comes to keeping students safe. Nevertheless, there are a couple of additional steps that can be taken, such listing any expensive items on a spreadsheet or similar, so that in the instance of a burglary or a fire, there is a record of all the student’s belongings. Making a note of serial numbers would also be useful. I would further recommend that any high value items be security-marked – there are plenty of options on the market, which create an indelible mark meaning the equipment can quickly be traced back to the owner if stolen and recovered by the police. 

Most forms of university-run accommodation use an electronic key fob system to gain entry to the building, as well as to various subsections of the accommodation. This is an efficient system that only breaks down when fob-holders let someone without a fob to enter the building. The importance of only letting in trusted people should be emphasised – it’s better safe than sorry, even if this results in slight social awkwardness. The same goes for “tailgating” – this occurs when people without a fob quickly follow residents into the building. Holding a door open out of politeness is all well and good, until a theft takes place and that is pinpointed as the action that let in the burglar. 

Private accommodation is a whole different kettle of fish – sadly the security in these can be very varied. Granted, there are conscientious, moral landlords who will abide above and beyond all regulations, providing a safe space for the student. However, there are also those who are just in it for the quick buck and are prepared to provide the laxest of security arrangements for residents. In this case, some pushing may need doing in order to get things up to scratch. Firstly, you just don’t know who else (in addition to the landlord) has keys for the property. It may be that previous occupants have copies – always ask the landlord if this is the case, as they should be able to account for each copy made. If there are copies that have gone missing, it would be well within the new resident’s rights to request that locks are changed. After all, you can have all the quality locks you want, but these become irrelevant if a prospective burglar has the keys for them. 

Whilst we’re mentioning quality locks, a check should take place before any contract is signed that the locks are of sufficient quality to meet requirements, and that there are no easy access points from the outside. Students should always take out contents’ insurance, and this may stipulate a minimum requirement for locks on doors or windows so these must be checked. 

 Students can also take their own precautions in not leaving expensive equipment on display, making sure they always know where their keys are (and NOT leaving them under a doormat or similar), and being careful who they let in their flat. If a party is planned, try and lock laptops and phones away somewhere safe – the morning after can be painful enough without waking up to find treasured possessions gone and no idea who of many gate crashers stole them. 

Beginning university can be an exciting time and I wouldn’t want to put a dampener on it. But taking a few precautions in order to reduce the chances of a break-in ruining the whole experience of the first few weeks could well reduce stress in the long term. It will also help with an important life lesson as one becomes a responsible adult – sometimes things are dull but necessary!

For advice on anything lock-related, or to enquire about repairs or replacements, call 07990573857 and ask for Stephen 

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