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Police chief warns students of new breed of criminal

By Joe Fitzpatrick

Manchester’s students are being targeted by a new breed of criminal, according to the inspector charged with protecting them.

In the week that thousands of students hit Manchester to take up places as the city’s universities, police launched Student Safe, an operation to protect them.

Speaking to Mancunian Matters, Inspector Andy Sidebotham said: “Ten or fifteen years ago the vast majority of our burglars were doing it to fund a class a drug habit, they were sticking it up their arm.

“Now burglars are a lot younger, from 14 to 21, young males who basically do it because it’s easy, they do it for the buzz and they do it for the lifestyle.

“If you’ve got someone who is on drugs the only way you can stop them is to either lock them up or get them off drugs, with these kids what we’ve found is if you take away the option of burglary being easy you can condition them to stop.”

Last year the student districts of South Manchester had the highest incidence of burglary for Greater Manchester, with the vast majority being non-student on student.

As part of Student Safe, 40 prolific criminals were sent letters instructing them to stay away from students.

Inspector Sidebotham has warned the recipients of the consequences should they ignore the letters: “We will visit your home, we’ll visit your friend’s house, we’ll go to your mum and dad’s, we’ll go wherever it takes to put pressure on you,” he said.

This is the second year of Student Safe and in 2010 the operation reduced student burglaries by 45%.

Officers hopes that the influx of students over the coming weeks does not cause a surge in crime but are not understating the task at hand.

Inspector Sidebotham added: “There’s no doubt that having 60,000 students, basically a town the size of Burnley land on your doorstep, has an effect.”

As part of the scheme up to 50 officers and Police Community Support Officers a day will be on patrol.

They will visit the homes of students in vulnerable areas to carry out crime prevention surveys, offer advice and carry out covert operations.

Jac Ianson, a fourth year student living in Fallowfield, said: “I always feel very safe, last year there were a few burglaries and the police came round giving advice and installed motion detection devices on windows that trigger an alarm if opened.”

Students are encouraged to register their valuables on www.immobilise.com, a free way of logging the details of property on a national database that police can access and compare against items that have been found or recovered from suspected criminals.

For more advice on keeping safe, students can join the Student Safe Facebook group by searching for Manchester Student Safety, or visit www.gmp.police.uk

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