Lenton’s Law

“Shottingham.” You’d heard the rumours before you arrived in Nottingham, but you’ve probably learnt by now that gun crime isn’t generally the main issue that we have to contend with whilst living here. Lenton is teeming with students and almost every house has laptops, televisions, cameras and mobile phones in abundance, making it the perfect playgroundfor criminals. On the Nottinghamshire Police Crime Map System figures state that over the final three months of 2009, the average number of crimes per month was 68.3. This is more than two a day and, of course, these are just the crimes that were reported. A related statistic may surprise you – the number at our seemingly safe, guarded University Park over the same period was slightly higher, at 69.7.

Student areas up and down the country are subject to crime thanks to thieves taking advantage of badly-protected houses filled with adolescents and electricals. This does not, however, explain why the average number of reported household burglaries per thousand in Nottingham is 15.1, compared to the national average of just 4.3. This means you’re three and a half times more likely to get burgled here than in any other town outside the capital; this is a figure that, according to Endsleigh, is reflected heavily in the cost of home insurance in the city.

Burglaries are now so ingrained in daily life that if it happens on your street, you barely flicker an eyelid. In 2006, Kimbolton Avenue was labelled the most burgled street in Britain by two national newspapers. There were no official statistics for this but it seems fairly likely, thanks perhaps to the alleyway that runs past the back of every house on the street, allowing for a quick criminal getaway. I spoke to a previous resident of Kimbolton who lived there with three other girls. Their house was burgled and ransacked; despite the fact that all of the tenants and their friends were in the house, the burglars managed to get in through a window which had been left ajar. This incident is not an isolated one – up to 25% of burglaries occur when premises are entered through open windows or doors. Accommodation and Community Officer, Sam Wilkinson, talked to me about a Crime Prevention Campaign launched by the Students’ Union, which aims to make students aware of this issue. He explained that by “trying to get students to change their attitudes early on in university life, we hope that vigilance towards crime is something that sticks with them.” The bad publicity that Kimbolton received in the years prior to the girls’ incident compelled the council to take action; hence the huge surveillance cameras that now watch over the length of the street like hungry vultures. So perhaps an issue needs to reach national newspapers before it is addressed?

However, there are ways in which we are able to take the safety of our possessions into our own hands. A current third year student, who has been a Kimbolton resident for two years, suggested to me that although some people have been unlucky (his next door neighbours were recently burgled), really “you just need to be switched on about locking up your stuff.” This particular student also suggested that whilst most people in Lenton have probably come across the ‘worst street in Britain’ stories, in reality “the road is quite safe as long as you’re careful and the cameras definitely make it feel safer.” Clearly taking part in the initial crime prevention is an important role that we need to play.

The blame for the high crime rate in our area is often placed upon the naiveté of eighteen year olds who come from ‘nice backgrounds’ and give opportunistic burglars every chance possible by leaving doors and windows unlocked. This may well be the case, as Wilkinson says, “students bring a lot of wealth into the city and are inexperienced at living away from home; this therefore makes them perfect targets for opportunistic crime.” The guidance that we receive largely derives from common sense, advising us to lock our doors, to stay alert and not to be flashy with expensive valuables. The suggestion that SmartWater is used to mark property (a microscopic UV forensic signature that police can use to trace items back if they are recovered) is all very well and good but does nothing to prevent a burglary taking place – and once possessions are stolen, they are normally sold on quickly, making their recovery unlikely.

It seems that in many cases, criminals are treated fairly leniently by the judicial system – shown in 2008 by the burglar who, with over one hundred convictions, was allowed to go back to live in his home in Lenton just doors down from a house he had previously burgled. How someone escapes a jail sentence after being caught one hundred times – his total number of offences may far surpass this – is beyond me. Of course there is no inevitability that this man will re-offend; however, I do wonder how measures promoted on our University website encouraging us to ‘Love our New Stuff’ can be taken seriously in this sort of situation, where a person who has repeatedly put the community at risk is dropped right back into it.

This message has some element of truth; of course we would be stupid to live with wanton disregard for our valuables but it is futile to suggest that ‘closing our curtains’ will prevent us from being burgled, particularly if there are people living amongst us with in excess of one hundred convictions. Having said this, a number of the students I spoke to did not go to the police after they had been burgled because they were in some way to blame as a result of negligence. It is important that every crime is reported as – aside from giving the victim a greater chance of getting their stuff back – this gives the police force a better understanding of what the situation is in Lenton. Figures published on crime within the Lenton Triangle – an area which covers Canning Circus, down the right hand side of Derby Road – show that the number of burglaries here have increased by 50% between the end of 2008 and the end of 2009 and violent crime over the same time period has increased by 66.7%. The fact that many crimes go unreported means that even these rates do not portray the full extent of crime in Lenton, leaving the police unable to tackle the issues properly. The vigilance of students is an important preventative factor but this alone is not enough, as indicated by the high statistics.

Burglaries, however, are not the only thing we students need to be wary of. Violence against an individual, most notably mugging, is much more common in Nottingham, with an average 29.8 of every 1000 people experiencing it, double the national average of 15 per 1000. I spoke to a third year student who was mugged last year early in the morning on her way to the library from Lenton, and she described her incident as traumatising. She was walking along Derby Road listening to her iPod with very little cash on her, when her hood was pulled over her eyes, she was pushed against a wall and her bag snatched from her. Presumably the mugger ended up either very disappointed with his haul or, somewhat less likely, was a keen historian and had been after the books in the first place. The impact that this had on her university work was immense, something that has no benefit for the mugger but great repercussions for the victim.

This is a feeling shared by many students who have had their laptops stolen and it is often the work on there that is irreplaceable, serving as a vital reminder of the importance of backing up your work, even if just by e-mail. Another girl I spoke to was mugged on her way to campus and had her library books stolen – the library made her pay for the books after she had undergone the traumatic ordeal and still the University of Nottingham refrains from publicizing the crimes it is aware of.

Both of these girls were relatively lucky as there has previously been a prolific mugger carrying out knifepoint attacks in nearby Castle Marina, Forest Fields, Radford and Lenton. The attacker regularly waited in hiding for passers by before pouncing with a knife and demanding valuables from them. Rumour also has it that the cash point next to the Savoy cinema on Derby Road is the most ‘mugged’ cash point in Britain; this is terrifying when you consider the number of us that stop to get money out after dark before a night out. According to statistics from Nottingham Crime and Drugs Partnership, there was a 50% increase in muggings in the areas of Dunkirk and Lenton between 2008 and 2009, yet this information fails to reach our ears unless we do our own investigations.

It is a common occurrence that a weapon is used as a threat. Such was the case when in 2009 the Tesco Express of Willoughby Street, Lenton was a target of armed robbery and again, in January of 2010 when an 18 year old mugged a younger boy, punching him and threatening him with a screwdriver in Lenton Abbey. Sadly the threat was not quite as empty when a body was found in a house on Derby Grove in January of this year. This murder was linked to another, further away in Kimberley, but it begs the question: why didn’t more of us hear about this? This murder seems to be the perfect reflection of the grittiness within which we are living, blissfully unaware.
I became aware of this case thanks to a friend who lives on the same road updating his Facebook status, but for the droves of students not living a few doors down from the murder scene, the most they were likely to have heard about it is hearsay. Unfortunately the crime figures for Nottingham are not an enticing advert for the University, which lets the side down for what is otherwise a fantastic student-friendly city. The powers that be are all too aware of this and the threatening undercurrent of constant petty crime throughout Lenton and University Park is marketed as being on the decrease, leading us to believe that we are living in an environment that is becoming ever safer.

Nonetheless, the blame cannot be fully placed elsewhere as I discovered myself when talking to the vast number of students who have experienced burglaries. Leave your doors unlocked and, in my opinion, you may as well leave a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit out as well. Levels of crime may be on the decrease in some areas, and Lenton can be a great place to live thanks to its lively atmosphere and vibrant student community, but this is precisely why it is so often targeted by prospective criminals. We would do well to be more aware of this.

Emily Goodyear

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9 Comments on this post.
  • Boss
    30 April 2010 at 05:03
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    This is scary…

  • ellem
    30 April 2010 at 14:11
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    While I think it is important to have a realistic awareness of the crime rate in our environment, I wonder what the desired outcome of this article is beyond simply scaring students into paranoid behaviour.

    I am deeply sympathetic with the trauma suffered by any victim of crime, particularly when your home or personal space is invaded, but to encourage individuals to feel that they are likely to be assaulted or burgled will do just as much harm as the crimes themselves. It has been demonstrated that nervousness and paranoid behaviour gives the illusion of a person being weak and indefensible and can make them a more likely target for muggings. Surely rather than presenting us with the notion that the streets are not safe, we should broadcast effective strategies for avoiding crime and instilling a sense of control and confidence in ourselves.
    Naive householders will always be a target for burglary, that’s why newly moved families and individuals are often victims of burglary, as they are unfamiliar with their new surroundings and can take time to establish effective security measures int heir new homes. I’m glad that you acknowledge that those who leave an access point to their house must hold themselves partly accountable for burglary, but rather leave us with a positive reminder of the success of simple security routines, you seem to dwell on the idea that crime surrounds us and, unless we are preoccupied with that fact, we will become a victim ourselves.
    Feeling safe and secure is a very important aspect of individual welfare. By engaging in the scare-mongering with which we are bombarded every day, articles such as these encourage anxiety and discomfort, reducing our likelihood of maintaining calm vigilant behaviour and therefore increasing our risk of being burgled or mugged.
    Surely the very fact that most students feel relatively safe in Lenton and on University Park Campus is a testament to our wonderful ability to remain comfortable in an environment that on paper would make us deeply insecure.

    While I’m sure you didn’t intend for your article to have any adverse affects on your readers, I certainly feel that the lasting impression is one of fear and danger; not a state in which anyone would want to live. I’m not advocating blissful ignorance in any way, that is highly counterproductive, but the opposite is deeply disturbing as well. We must present the truth about the crime levels in Nottingham, without being swamped with negative attitudes toward our local area.

  • Brutus
    2 May 2010 at 11:15
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    Not one mention of my beloved Beeston. Are we to assume that the emerald satellite town is a student safe-haven, anomalous to the trend and thus unworthy of acknowledgement? Or is this simply another Impactian omission of ol’ Beestie? Having lived in the town centre for some two years now, I can’t say I’ve been the victim of any variety of crime; I haven’t even bothered with home insurance and my housemate left the back door unlocked over the Christmas holidays. We have single glazing and no alarm. Go Beeston!

  • Damien Clarke
    2 May 2010 at 14:03
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    Thanks for this article Emily, as it definitely needed to be published. Although I would not at all consider this ‘scare-mongering’ it is vital that students be shocked into more vigilant behaviour if that’s what it takes. Living on University Park, and being told by authorities in week 1 how Nottingham is improving, I had thought nothing of strolling long the canal at night toward the city. Despite natural, albeit minimal, fear of muggings, I had assumed that there was little crime, as I have heard so little about it.

    Also, I would suggest that if 25% of break-and-enters result from inadequately secured properties then residents need to be scared into reducing this statistic, particularly since we are seeing it rise. If most freshman live on campus, then presumably it is second or third years in Lenton who still live under the misconception that current crime rates are an acceptable status-quo. Ultimately, if there are any burglaries resultant from windows ajar, then too many residents do not have the message to secure their homes. Not that I aim to rant here, but CCTV is merely a placebo for the people. Is it likely that a perpetrator could be identified say, running through an alley wearing a black hoodie at night on grainy footage? Lock your doors! Close your windows! Don’t flaunt you extravagances on the window sill. Once crime rates legitimately do decrease, and appropriately mature attitudes toward crime prevention are taken, only then should we be feeling secure in our environment.

    On another note, if you cycle to campus you may lessen the chance of being mugged (although greatly increase the chance of being knocked down by an errant cab driver).

  • Privately Educated Student
    2 May 2010 at 15:50
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    Good article- though no real suggestions as to how things could be improved.

    2 things I’d say:

    1) @Emily Goodyear

    “It seems that in many cases, criminals are treated fairly leniently by the judicial system – shown in 2008 by the burglar who, with over one hundred convictions, was allowed to go back to live in his home in Lenton just doors down from a house he had previously burgled. How someone escapes a jail sentence after being caught one hundred times – his total number of offences may far surpass this – is beyond me”

    Don’t vote Lib Dem at the election- they want to completely abolish prison sentences which fall at 6 months or under- thus meaning that these burglars in Lenton will be allowed to stay at home.

    2) Ask why on earth Lenton does not have its own police officer(s), on the beat, 24/7? I have almost never seen a police man walking around Lenton during the day, and never have at night. Would this be so much to ask for!?

    Why have Labour failed to provide more police on the beat in areas like Lenton? Forget the tabloid headlines- forget the Government’s statistics– you only need to look at the experiences of many students at Nottingham to know that Labour have completely failed to provide more police to keep us safe. That’s the real litmus test of a Government’s crime policy.

  • Helen
    2 May 2010 at 19:57
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    Living on Bute Ave in 2004/5, we were burgled by thieves who jimmied open the living room window, which had been left as locked as it could be with dodgy wooden frames. It transpired that the house had been burgled on numerous occasions in previous years, by the same method of entry – there was even a hole in the frame where they had always inserted a screwdriver. Landlords and lettings agencies ought to make potential new tenants aware of previous crimes at the property and, preferably, make alterations to the property to make it less accessable to burglers.

  • Lucy Hayes
    2 May 2010 at 21:53
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    Just to offer an alternative opinion, I’ve lived in Lenton for two years and had a lovely time. I don’t particularly feel the need to have police stationed round the area 24/7, in the vague hope of catching a criminal mid-wrongdoing, when they could probably be dealing with more pressing matters. You could say that my opinions are due to a magpie-like obsessive protection of valuables on my behalf, but then, a friend of mine left her car unlocked (unintentionally, of course) for a few days and it was fine. People who’ve had bad experiences tend to make more noise than those who haven’t. This isn’t a criticism of the article, I just thought I’d balance out the thread a little!

  • V
    7 May 2010 at 12:52
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    @Privately Educated Student
    I’ve lived in Lenton over the last two years, and during the day I regularly see uniformed police officers manning the streets of our beloved area. Also, last year my friends car got broken into and the guy was caught straight away, and we were informed straight away, due to the fact that they have plain-clothed officers going around Lenton on a pretty much 24/7 basis.

    The thieves in most student areas, no matter how deplorable their actions, have to be given credit. They don’t just pick a random house because it is set back, or looks posh. They know that the house is going to be stacked full of goodies, and the more rooms the better. Yes people need to be more vigilant, but at the same time we hear stories of houses being burgled when people are inside – are we all going to consistently shut and lock bedroom windows just because we’re getting a cup of tea? We can all do our part; we can shut our windows and doors, and we can secure everything as much as we can, and we can walk to campus and back making sure that all our valuables are hidden, but there will still be people out there who will find a way to get in. As long as there are students living in a 7 bed house, all with a laptop, phone, iPod, etc., thieves will still, unfortunately, be a part of our lives.

  • S
    10 May 2010 at 13:03
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    I have to say that I agree with this article. However, I also agree with many of the comments…

    I lived in Radford in my 1st year and heard a number of rumours regarding bicycle thefts, and people getting into flats who shouldn’t have even gotten through the security gate. On top of this there was even a gang shoot-out 5 minutes walk away within a month of me moving in. Despite that, I was never once a victim., even though I would regularly walk around Radford alone at night.

    I’m not saying that everyone should do that or that I was being particularly sensible but I never had a problem… However, I never left myself at risk. If I was out alone I would have my phone close by just in case I needed it. The great thing about living with guys is that if I ever felt I needed help I could just call. I did once, when walking back from placement one night and a car full of guys stopped behind me and said I’d dropped my keys. Funny that I hadn’t put my hand in my bag since leaving the QMC but still… one phone call later and my housemates were 2 minutes down the road.

    Also, in the past fortnight I saw a opportunist walk into my neighbours kitchen after trying the door. Fortunately, he was confronted before he could take anything. Now, my housemates and our neighbours have all decided to keep a look out for each others houses. We share an alley between 3 houses and we all know who is normally around.

    If anything I’d suggest that people living in Lenton did discuss such things with their neighbours. It’s put me at ease now knowing that I have 2 houses watching over ours and vice versa. I know this won’t work in all situations but it’s better than just ignoring everyone. Yes, students may be naive initially but I’m pretty sure that most people would establish some common sense during their time here. Especially considering the press about Nottingham.

    In relation to the policing in Lenton. I have seen uniformed officers on Lenton Blvd during the day and at night. I’ve also seen a number of police cars going up and down during the day. The one problem I have with them is that once, during the “Love Your Stuff Campaign” a policeman was at my door and said “do you or anyone in your house smoke cannabis?”. Now, I don’t know about anyone else but would you own up to that? Also, I was wearing my nursing uniform… So I don’t think he was really considering his audience.

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