Today’s columnist, Inspector Neil Mutch: Better to be safe than sorry

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September is the start of a new university semester and we welcome students back to the city.

Some will be starting their first term as an undergraduate, which can be a daunting prospect, especially if it is their first time living away from home.

We appreciate that students will have a lot to think about but it is vital that they consider taking steps to protect themselves and their property because halls of residence, student houses and students in general can be a target for would-be burglars or thieves.

So why students? Students own more expensive consumer goods per head than the rest of the population in particular iPads, laptops, mobile phones and iPods which they carry with them on their way to and from the library and university campus.

We can reassure students that crime in South Yorkshire is relatively low.

However, taking some simple, sensible steps can go a long way to prevent undergraduates, or in fact any member of the public, from becoming a victim of crime.

We already raise awareness by working alongside colleges and universities but here are some tips to help keep students safe:

n Many burglaries happen when a door or window has been left open – shut doors and windows before you go out and keep valuables out of sight and if possible away from these entry points.

n One of the biggest problems we face is mobile phone thefts, so we ask that students keep them safe when out and about, don’t leave them on a table or on view in your bag.

n In a private home or flat, lock up whenever you go out, with deadbolts if you have them. Look at installing a burglar alarm.

n In a hall of residence, be careful who you let in or who follows you into the building – lock your bedroom door even if you are only going down the corridor. Only give keys to those living in the accommodation.

n Walk in groups at night, travel by taxi or stay over with friends, your safety is worth more than the cab fare home.

n If possible, use cash-machines during the day – put your card and cash away and be vigilant – never write down your PIN.

n Always lock your car and put valuables out of sight – never leave the keys in the ignition even when paying for petrol.

n If you love it, log it is the message we are sending out to students. Visit Immobilise to log your valuables and increase your chances of getting items back if they are stolen.

n Protect yourself with insurance – keep lists of the make, model and serial numbers of your electronic items to help police track them down if they are stolen

n Mark your property with the initials of your university and your student ID number – this makes it harder for a burglar to sell stolen goods and can help the police to return it.

n And finally, Studentastic provides an excellent reference point on how to survive student life and have a great time as well.

* Inspector Neil Mutch, Sheffield Central Safer Neighbourhood Area