The idea for a Student Drop-in Centre at the University of Lincoln originated during a discussion two years ago between Lynda Crosby (the University's Careers & Employability Operations Manager) and Jackie Rowe (Volunteer Coordinator at Lincolnshire Police). This resulted in the development of The Lincolnshire Police Lincoln Award which has the joint purpose of helping students to gain valuable work experience, thus boosting their future employment prospects, and encouraging peer-to-peer support on campus. Although there has always been a police presence on and off at the University, the initiative was also aiming for something more permanent. We spoke to Jackie to find out more.
Recruitment begins in around April each year to enable the student volunteers to be fully prepared for the start of the academic year. They are given First Aid training and attend police-organised talks on issues such as: wildlife crime; counter terrorism; negotiating skills; cyber crime and intelligence. Volunteers are also shown around the local police station and given a control room tour to allow them to observe what happens when a call comes in. Developing a relationship between the police and the student volunteers helps open up a channel of communication; students can act as the 'eyes and ears' of the police on campus, and the police can provide the volunteers with vital information and advice.
The Drop-in Centre is student-run, with regular visits from Police Community Support Officers. Volunteers are provided with leaflets to distribute to students on the various support options available and are given police guidance on how to keep yourself and your property safe, where to seek help for all major crime types (including hate crime and sexual assault) and how to preserve evidence of a crime. The Centre is conveniently situated on the University campus, allowing students to report crimes, pass on information or concerns, hand in lost property, and seek advice. The student-led aspect is ideal for students who may not know how to report a crime, or who feel intimidated by the thought of visiting a police station. Bobby the Bear is even on hand to provide a welcoming presence, and offer a sweet or two to passing students!
Alongside the student volunteers, there are also two Volunteer Community Support Officer positions made available for students. These individuals pledge to donate an impressive 250 hours of their time over a two year period, and undergo five weekends of training, including in self-defence. The role involves patrolling the city's streets with the local policing team, and Jackie explains how she has heard - anecdotally - from students that their peers respond well to a student presence and seem to find it easier to talk to a fellow student.
Student volunteers are also encouraged to get involved with the development of the scheme; an example of this includes creating and conducting student surveys to find out how safe students feel on campus, any safety concerns they have, whether they have been a victim of a crime, and if this was something that they chose to report. This enables the partnership to target certain issues, and the volunteers are currently working on a poster campaign centred around keeping students safe.
There are also plans for the scheme to partner with the organisers of the Lincoln student campaign Shush, which aims to help new students integrate into the general population encouraging a "community spirit" and reminding them to return home quietly after a night out. Over the summer, the Drop-in Centre will be recruiting some new volunteers and preparing for Freshers' Week 2017. Jackie explains how important it is to provide new students with information and support in relation to their safety: "They are often away from home for the first time, living away from their parents and may have not even considered issues that may seem obvious like making sure doors and windows are securely locked, or how to keep themselves and their possessions safe."
For more information on the Drop-in Centre, you can contact Lincolnshire Police's media team here.