Following the slew of recent mugging related incidences on campus, including one involving himself, Joe tackles the tough topic of muggings, using science to explain why someone would commit such a crime.
It was the eve of the 5th of June. I was enjoying a leisurely walk back to Broadgate from Hallward having spent hours revising, and expected to be in bed by midnight for my last exam the next day.
How wrong I was.
There is this unnamed path parallel to Cut-Through Lane, that just about everyone walking from Broadgate uses to get onto campus. By day, it is populated by rabbits, squirrels and students. That night, it was populated by myself and one other peculiar looking fellow, who, as I went to walk past him, turned towards me, and two of his associates jumped out from the adjacent foliage in an unforeseen ambush.
The realisation hit me like a train. Three people had just attempted to mug me.
I had seen enough movies – I knew what this was. I made the split-second decision to make a break for it, and I sprinted down the path, them chasing. I made it the Florence Boot mini-roundabout on Beeston Road, and, now out in the open, the three unsavoury gentlemen did not emerge from what was the darkness of the pathway. The realisation hit me like a train. Three people had just attempted to mug me.
Cue a couple of hours with the police, followed by the arrival of a police helicopter, a dog unit, and armed backup. As it turns out, there had been another mugging that very same night, with the perpetrators being armed.
It was a horrific experience. I talk of it openly – making light of it, it is my one claim to being a BNOC, but I cannot overlook the underlying damage done to me psychologically. Physically, thankfully, I am fine, but mentally, unfortunately, time needs to heal me.
This instance, as well as the other muggings on campus, the most recent of which was only in this past week on the 17th June made me wonder – what makes someone go out to cause someone such damage? What makes a mugger?
The social scientific research on the demographics of perpetrators of what is officially termed ‘robbery’ is slim. A deep look at the background information of convicts is often understandably reserved for murderers, the perpetrators of knife crime and such like. However, there is an overlap here, for, if the perpetrators of my attempted mugging were armed, then they do have the potential to join those who commit knife crime. I wrote a two-part article looking at the roots of knife crime, noting that poverty, domestic abuse and expulsion from school can produce such criminals, and are thus perhaps translatable to muggers as well.
The social scientific research on the demographics of perpetrators of what is officially termed ‘robbery’ is slim.
Nottingham, too, has a gang problem. The city was recently named as one of the 25 ‘high-risk’ areas for children being groomed into gangs by Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner. It is certainly possible that my attackers were part of a gang and were acting on their orders, indicative that this gang crisis needs to be solved.
An admittedly dated report by the Economic and Social Research Council also noted the frightening concept that these street robbers “carry out their crimes for the thrill as much as for financial gain”. Attacks so motiveless make them sometimes unpredictable, and speaks to me on the level of my own experience. My attackers committed their crime on a university campus – their targets were students. Traditionally, we are a cash-strapped people scrounging for the best meal deal – hardly targets for criminals wanting to make considerable financial gains.
My attackers committed their crime on a university campus – their targets were students.
Some issues are self-evident. The council needs to clamp down on gangs, and the core social problems that our society is plagued by need to be addressed. Simple things like better lighting and increased security on campus would go a long way. But other issues are not, for mugging related social research simply has not been done. Addressing this research gap is a necessary step in order to better understand what makes a mugger.
Being a victim of a mugging remains unlikely (recent data indicates that “less than half of 1%” of adults will be a victim per year), and being a victim of a mugging on a university campus is even less likely still. But, as I found, these things happen when we least expect them. Now, I make no defence of the people who attempted to mug me. Any individual that targets a university campus is fundamentally toxic, and I see them as wretched delinquents who need to be brought to justice. But there is no harm in attempting to understand what it was that poisoned their minds, and thus prevent others from becoming poisoned too.
For more information about how to stay safe on campus, please read the safety advice from the University of Nottingham’s Safety in the City section on the University’s official website.