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Canterbury street marshals: A whole community approach to student safety

Each year, a fresh wave of young people hit the UK's towns and cities for Freshers' Week, and reports of students being targeted by criminals almost inevitably follow. Recently, Manchester student safety has been the focus of several news stories, but these problems are not isolated to particular areas. Crime data shows 16–24 year olds are more likely to be victims of violent crime than any other age group, and students are also twice as likely to be mugged than the general population. This suggests that universities need to evaluate and improve their safety advice and support for students.

Many new students are living away from home for the first time, finding their feet in an unfamiliar city. In all the excitement, thoughts for personal safety can easily be forgotten. For this reason, ProtectED requires member universities to have a range of student support measures in place, including the provision of a street marshal scheme. The Canterbury Street Marshal Scheme is cited as a ProtectED Code of Practice case study example of where this initiative is already taking place. We spoke to Paul Hennessey of Right Guard Security UK, who leads on this work, to find out more...

The Canterbury Street Marshals

The idea to set up a street marshal scheme for students in Kent was inspired by the work of the Leamington Spa Street Marshals who patrol areas frequented by Warwick University students from 11pm until 4am, Monday to Thursday. This prompted the University of Kent and Canterbury Christchurch University to reflect upon how they might offer something similar to their own students. At the start of the 2015/16 academic year, the Universities launched the Canterbury Street Marshals; a jointly-funded scheme whereby staff from private security company Right Guard, patrol the City's streets.

Reliable support

Ensuring a high standard of support, Right Guard are vetted by a member of the National Police Chiefs Council (formerly ACPO). This allows Right Guard to deploy staff under the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (CSAS). Each Street Marshal is vetted by Kent Police, before undertaking a two-day CSAS course; CSAS provides a framework for public and private bodies to work in partnership with the police. Marshals must also hold a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence, and receive training in the use of body worn cameras and first aid. Having successfully passed all elements, Marshals receive an ID card from the Chief Constable of Kent, stating which accredited powers they hold.

A twofold approach The main aims of the scheme are twofold — to safeguard students as they move through specific areas of Canterbury, and to promote positive community relations. Marshals operate in pairs, one male, one female, and always ensure one first aider is on each shift. In many cases, the Marshals assist students who have become lost, as is often the case for those who have just moved to the area, or those who have become vulnerable under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In each case, Marshals will step in and escort students to where they need to go, or help them to safely access transport home. The Marshals also encourage students to act responsibly as they walk through residential areas, and they will ask individuals to close doors and windows, and perhaps turn the volume down, in the event of a noisy house party.

Street Marshals are deployed throughout the academic year, starting in Freshers' Week and continuing with patrols every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night, from 11pm to 5am. The patrol areas are predominantly in residential areas of Canterbury, and additional patrols may be requested for specific events such as St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, or Graduation. The following video shows a typical night for the Marshals:

Collaborative working

The Street Marshal Scheme is controlled by a steering group, which consists of the Students' Unions from both Universities, Kent Police, Canterbury City Council, Residents' Associations, and the University of Kent and Canterbury Christchurch University. Regular steering group meetings are held to discuss the scheme, identify problem areas and develop solutions. Right Guard Security has an information sharing agreement with both universities and the local police.

Street Marshals also work closely with other relevant organisations including Street Pastors and the Lighthouse Project, which offers a safe haven and hot drinks to those who have found themselves in a vulnerable position. In addition, Marshals maintain close links with security staff from each University, local safe taxi firms, and door supervisors from licensed premises that they may walk past. The Street Marshal Scheme is also a member of Canterbury District Watch, a scheme that links members to the City’s CCTV system, which the Marshals can call upon, if required.

Data collection

In order to measure the impact of the scheme and identify potential problem areas and trends, the scheme requires Street Marshals to record specific ‘contact indicators’ — these include: Advised about behaviour; Helped or escorted home; First aid provided; Talked to; and Referral to emergency services. After each patrol, the Street Marshal Supervisor submits a report detailing any incidents of note, for example, the location of a house party, which will be passed back to the relevant University. Finally, two surveys are conducted jointly by the Universities to capture valuable student feedback about the scheme.

Visible results

In its first year, the scheme reduced complaints of anti-social behaviour in the community by 22%. To date, Street Marshals have escorted over 100 students home, which equates to 100 less police crime reports, or 100 less ambulance trips. Paul explains why he feels the scheme has been a success:

"The Street Marshals are engaging and very approachable, the students feel safe in their presence and there is genuine respect for each other. This helps when asking students to be quiet and mindful of others in the community. We are now in our third year of the scheme, the patrols have remained consistent and this has helped with students recognising the Street Marshals, some by first name, which in turn breeds trust in the scheme and what it set out to achieve."

Residents have also commented on the reduction in anti-social behaviour, and the feeling is that this is a direct result of the Street Marshals' presence and how they communicate with others.

What schemes and initiatives does your university have in place to ensure student safety? Please get in touch to tell us more!

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