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PAHELO: Promoting safer student communities through police-university parterships

Full-time students in higher education are known to experience increased levels of victimisation compared to the general population for a number of crimes, including burglary, mugging, violence, and domestic violence. Further, certain student groups may face different personal safety issues: the Revolt Sexual Assault survey revealed that 48% of female students have been sexally assaulted at university; a recent NUS study into the experiences of Muslim students found that 1 in 3 respondents had experienced some type of abuse or crime at their place of study; and a strong campus safety programme is now a key decision-making factor for international students.

For many students, going to university will be their first experience of living away from home, often in an unfamiliar city or country. It is therefore vital that universities equip students with information to help keep themselves and their belongings safe, and clearly communicate the various support options available for students.

One organisation that is working to put student safety at the heart of the student experience is PAHELO — the Police Association of Higher Education Liaison Officers. In partnership with higher education institutions and their student bodies, they aim to reduce crime, and increase trust and reassurance for all those who work, live and study in, or visit, university campuses and communities.

PAHELO reach out to UK police forces and universities to recruit new members. Benefits include the ability to join PAHELO's interactive forum; it keeps members up-to-date on the latest information, news and good practice related to student safety and campus security, and facilitates the sharing of advice and ideas between colleagues. PAHELO also run dedicated workshops for members, enhancing their knowledge and skills to deal with a broad range of student issues, including: sexual assault, crime prevention, bicycle crime, mental health, substance misuse, working with student volunteers, and Freshers' Week concerns.

Universities currently working with PAHELO officers include the Loughborough University beat team who tweet from @LboroUniPolice. They keep students updated throughout the year with safety tips, and create dedicated safety campaigns at 'hot spot' points for crime such as Freshers' Week, Easter and Christmas. Members of the team even do some of their administration work on campus, creating a visible yet approachable police presence and giving students the opportunity to have an informal chat with a police officer.

At De Montfort University, the @DMUCops patrol the University campus, raise awareness of online scams targeting students, deliver regular bike crime prevention talks, and earlier this year, they got involved in the University's night walk to send a zero-tolerance message on sexual violence.

Meanwhile, a team at the University of Central Lancashire, the @UCLanCampusCops, campaign to encourage the use of Immobilise — the UK national property register, where students can register their valuables, thus increasing the chances of having them returned, should they be stolen and recovered. The Campus Cops also run 'Coffee with a Cop' events where students can meet up for a chat, and they even launched a University-wide poster campaign to highlight the importance of sexual consent.

In South Wales, the police student liaison officers work closely with student volunteers from Cardiff University, Cardiff Metropolitan University, the University of South Wales and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Together, they run the Student Safety Bus (which always has a police officer and at least two student volunteers on board). Venue door staff and the Students' Unions have a phone number for the Bus, enabling them to get in touch if a student is in need of support or a safe ride home. The team also conduct crime prevention walkabouts, advising students on personal safety, crime prevention, and anti-social behaviour issues around noise and house parties.

If you are a police officer or police staff involved with a UK university, you can apply to join PAHELO using this form. Membership is on an annual basis, free of charge, and it provides you with access to the PAHELO forum and workshops taking place throughout the UK.

Follow PAHELO's work on twitter, here.

Notes: Embedded throughout the ProtectED Code of Practice is the requirement for universities to work with local organisations, charities and police to help enhance student safety and wellbeing. PAHELO is also represented on the ProtectED Advisory Board, offering expert guidance on measures to support campus security and student safety.

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