Following the recent spike in crimes over Fallowfield, students are now demanding change. Many see no improvement in safety as the regularly updated Fallowfield Students Group is still flooded with stories of muggings, attacks, break-ins, verbal abuse, and stalkings.
Earlier this month, Louis O’Halloran urged students to contact both local MP Afzal Khan and their MPs from home. He created a template for other students to use with the intention to illustrate the widespread prevalence of crime that still exists. Hopefully, the increased pressure on MPs, as a result, will start to trigger action that is much overdue.
Personally, I was interested in what Afzal Khan had to say himself as MP for Manchester Gorton constituency. I arranged a telephone interview to speak with him directly.
Firstly, I asked his opinion on whether he thought Louis’ approach was a good one. Khan congratulated Louis on taking initiative to contact MPs as their job is to serve the communities in which they lead. He later commented that many students have got in touch, whether this is a direct result of Louis or because of their own experiences is uncertain, but “there is clearly a problem.”
Khan said he welcomed any support on offer to help improve safety in Fallowfield but claims that ultimately there needs to be sufficient resources available for the professionals.
He attributes eight years of austerity policies which have seen police departments cut in numbers the reason for high levels of crime: “This has increased the pressure on the police and strained resources.”
I then asked his opinion of the Night Owl Scheme which emerged out of the petition last October. Khan commented the petition was “impressive” in terms of volume and demonstrated the needs of students in Fallowfield.
However, although the Night Owl Scheme is yet to launch Khan expressed mixed opinions of it. “Any support people can give is welcome, [however, the] safety of Night Owls is a concern.”
When asked what students can do themselves to help he advised that keeping in groups and staying alert is key. Remaining vigilant at all times on the streets as the theft of mobile phones by thieves on bicycles has increased.
I then asked what he is doing to help as our MP because students have felt unsafe for a long time. He emphasised the importance of working collaboratively with students, the university, police, and the council to be most effective. Khan seemed keen to point out that, “students are our future.” He plans to meet students themselves and talk to them about their issues. Apart from this, he didn’t mention any other steps or plans for the future which was disappointing.
I finished the conversation by informing him of some of the ideas students have suggested themselves. This included improving street lighting, improving student-police relationships — as many feel neglected when crimes are just logged on to a system with no follow-up — and increasing police presence on our streets. Khan agreed with all of these contributions, but only time will tell if any of these will be implemented.