University of Northampton: Reported crime reaches six-year high

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Northamptonshire Police campus teamImage source, University of Northampton
Image caption,
The University of Northampton is paying more than £750,000 for a team of officers over the next three academic years

Reported crime levels at a university reached a six-year high before it began paying for police to patrol its new campus, the BBC has learned.

The University of Northampton is spending £774,027 on a team of Northamptonshire Police officers over the next three academic years.

Crimes reported from September 2012 to July 2018 included burglary, blackmail and sexual assault.

The university said student and staff safety and security was "a priority".

About 12,000 of the university's 13,000 students are based at its £350m Waterside Campus, which opened in September.

In October, the university said it decided to fund a team of officers as a pilot scheme, "rather than allow the taxpayer to bear the cost", but did not disclose further reasons for the move.

Image caption,
The University of Northampton has transformed wasteland by the River Nene into a base for 12,000 of its students

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the BBC asked for a list of crimes reported at the university's properties for the 2012-13 to 2017-18 academic years.

It showed a year-on-year increase in five of the last six academic years.

'Trailblazing partnership'

Of 124 recorded crimes during that time, four resulted in a charge. Fifty-four investigations were completed with no suspect identified and 21 were unresolved.

In a statement, the university said: "A priority for the University of Northampton is the safety and security of our community, and we actively recommend reports to the police of any suspected criminal activity that targets our staff and students.

"We are aware that the police in Northamptonshire provide a superb service, but that resources nationally are finite.

"Therefore when we moved to our new campus closer to Northampton town centre in the summer of 2018 we began a trailblazing partnership which saw the introduction of the UK's first dedicated university police team."

The officers are funded by the university but answerable to the chief constable.

Crime data for the 2018-19 academic year to date - and since the move to Waterside Campus - was not requested, but Northamptonshire Police confirmed that no arrests had been made in relation to an incident in which fireworks launched at buildings and people on 5 November.

Crimes on campus

  • 2012-13: 10 crimes; eight, including two cases of assault with injury, unresolved
  • 2013-14: 15 crimes; eight unresolved. Others - including an instance of trafficking controlled drugs - resulted in cautions or were resolved with no further action due to "evidential difficulties"
  • 2014-15: 21 crimes; one charge (assault with injury); 13 investigations completed without a suspect being identified
  • 2015-16: 18 crimes; one charge (assault without injury)
  • 2016-17: 26 crimes; 18 investigations completed without a suspect being identified (offences included assaults and blackmail/spam emails from a university email address)
  • 2017-18: 34 crimes; two charges (one for traffic offences and one for violent disorder)

Source: Freedom of Information request, Northamptonshire Police

The university said the team "enhances the safety of the university without adding any additional cost to the public finances" and that it had been approached by many other universities looking to introduce similar schemes.

It said it hoped a "bobby on the beat approach" would provide a "reassuring presence", but acknowledged that reported crime could rise since staff and students would know exactly how, and to whom, to report offences.

Sgt Lorna Clarke, who leads the university's policing team, said: "We are here to keep people safe and help them feel safe as well as to enforce the law and tackle any crimes that may take place here."

The University of Northampton's Students' Union has been approached for comment.

Image caption,
The university's £350m Waterside Campus opened in September

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