A ‘Night Owl’ scheme where student volunteers will be trained in first aid, safeguarding, well-being training and self-defence to safeguard vulnerable people is to be launched in the new year by the Students’ Union, The Mancunion can reveal.
After a petition titled ‘Greater Manchester Police & Andy Burnham: help us to make Fallowfield safe for students!‘ was signed by over 8,000 students, an investigation by The Mancunion suggested that students increasingly rely on Facebook for anecdotal advice about staying safe in South Manchester.
In relation to this, on the 23rd of October in the popular Fallowfield Students Group, a University of Manchester student, Steve Jackson, proposed creating a “simple student volunteer-led system where we’ll pair up volunteers, put them in high vis jackets and patrol the streets at night, particularly on the weekend” which could involve making “a facebook page and have a Whatsapp chat where we can share information about potential threats and more general useful stuff about being safe whilst out and about.”
However, Students’ Union Communities Officer, Jack Houghton, warned of the “dangers of people setting up these schemes without sufficient training and safeguarding.”
Jack said he had been in contact with Steve and “would love to see us work together to find as many volunteers as possible,” as the Students’ Union look set to launch their ‘Night Owl’ safety scheme in early 2018.
Jack said: “The union’s [‘Night Owl’] plan will provide self-defence training, bystander training, first aid training and advice training to ensure the safety of students. We will also be setting up an office to support students whilst on a night out. For example, to track volunteer locations and to maintain contact with police and security services during patrols.
“Between now and December I will be putting on consultation sessions with students so as to gain an idea of what people want the scheme to look like and whether they agree with the Students’ Union’s plan.”
The announcement comes after statistics issued by the Home Office on the 19th of October covering the 12-month period from July 2016 to June 2017 suggested that crime increased by 31 per cent in Greater Manchester in the last year.
In the region of Greater Manchester, violence against a person was indicated to have increased by 46 per cent over the 12-month period, sexual offences increased by 31 per cent, burglary increased by 14 per cent and robbery was suggested to have increased by 53 per cent.
Jack said that the Students’ Union were “working with GM police to establish which nights the night owls are needed, using crime statistics”, warning that the “police cannot protect students patrolling the streets without co-ordination with police.”
Aware of the reported frustration of many students regarding policing, security and safety in and around South Manchester, Jack said:”We urge people to be patient and are doing everything we can to set up this scheme as quickly as possible. It is important that the scheme is perfect upon launch because student safety is essential.”
Other student safety initiatives launched by the Students’ Union include increasing the number of street lights in Fallowfield, Withington, Rusholme and other areas, ensuring all new street lights are LED so will be brighter and a scheme set up with Street Cars which allows students to give a Street Cars driver their student I.D. if they have no money so they can still get a safe taxi home rather than have to walk.
Jack previously told The Mancunion that the Student Officer team “don’t want to rush into a decision” on long-term initiatives for improving student safety, adding that schemes such as the ‘Night Owl’ scheme have to be “very thought out” so they “don’t cause issues down the line.”