Updated: Monday, 22nd September 2014 @ 5:39pm

Student burglaries tackled with a shock police initiative – breaking in their homes

Student burglaries tackled with a shock police initiative – breaking in their homes

By Sarah Whalley

Students' houses were broken into last night in an innovative way to protect their homes from crime.

Greater Manchester Police launched the initiative that saw volunteers and members of the force pose as burglars and enter people’s homes in Fallowfield.

Houses that were not secured were left with an inflated balloon with information on how to secure the property; those that were safe were left with a deflated balloon and advice on how to keep up the good work.

The operation is hoped to raise awareness about the importance of home security and keeping valuables safe and is part of the Manchester Student Safety campaign, which has been going since 17 September.

Volunteer Mel Abraham, 21, a third year University of Manchester student said she wanted to help because she likes to get involved with community projects and this appeared to be a particularly imaginative one.

“I was burgled when I left a window open, I’m a lot more careful now - it was quite an expensive way to learn,” she said.

“I hope this works because it is creative, people know they should shut their windows but this will make people more aware.”

Beth Howard, 20, is studying nursing at the University of Manchester and was home last night when she saw her bike being taken from her back garden by a villain in a striped top, carrying a swag bag.

“I saw him round the back and I was about to come and knick it back and kick up a right fuss!” Beth said.

Fortunately for the Albion Road student, the villain was PC Scott Schofield warning her of how easy it was for a criminal to steal her bike.

Beth said she thought she was streetwise but her housemates disagreed, especially after the incident.

William Pett, 20, studies politics at the same university and said: “I think student houses are vulnerable and I don’t think it’s a particular safe area, I think you don’t realise that even leaving a window open is unsafe.

“But I think the police are good.”

The students said there has been a strong presence of police officers recently.

Inspector Andy Sidebotham said: “We are doing everything we can to protect students but sometimes it is their decisions that need changing.”

Officers patrolling the streets in the area from Mancunian Way through to Withington see between 40 to 90 properties left insecure each night, and one in three of these are a result of not locking doors or closing windows.                  

“If we try to help just this one issue, it would be a lot safer,” Inspector Sidebotham said.  

“We are trying something extraordinary here,” he said.

“We know that students are here to enjoy themselves as well as study but I would like to take this opportunity to advise them of some really simple steps to protect themselves from becoming a victim of crime - while out and about, stick to well-lit areas, stay in groups, pace your drinks and keep valuables such as phones and mp3 players out of sight.

“At your student accommodation, make sure that doors and windows are locked, even when you are in, and remember to set the alarm. If you’re going out at night, leave a light on to give the impression someone is home.”

However one student, who wanted to remain anonymous after his house was left unlocked for volunteers to walk straight in, said that although the police are doing a good job now, he hopes it will continue into the future.

“It’s refreshing that there is a lot of police but I’m waiting until the police go away and see what happens then, or if it will be kept up, but we are ready for it," the geography student said.

PC Scott Schofield said that the strategy will be monitored in order to gain feedback and evaluate success, so that efforts may continue.

Any repeat offenders of insecure properties will then be offered additional advise on how to stop their property being burgled.                                                                                    

Visit the Facebook page for more information, by searching Manchester Student Safety.