Fear Of Crime On Campus

When students see their own campus as a twilight zone of drug-related crime, Gabriela Fabretti insists the university must act now.

Parents dream of the day their children will go up on stage to receive their degree. They proudly pay for their beloved children to live inside university dorms thinking that it is the most convenient as well as one of the safest place for them to be.

As a student, when you think of university, you obviously think of a learning area, preferably with strong community values, and, most of all, safety among students. Unfortunately, many students from the University of East London now feel that safety can no longer be assumed – especially if you are living on campus.

Lax security has allowed some students to consume illicit drugs on university premises. The campus and the surrounding area are regular haunts for drug dealers. The bridge at Gallions Reach DLR station is known to be a hotspot. In the dim light of the evening most people avoid going there – unless, of course, it’s drugs that you are going for.

The student halls are less than two minutes away. Increasingly, students are asking for “more lighting in dark areas, more security at night and locked gates” – instead of letting Security leave them them half-open.

Although the university aims “to provide a clean and safe environment for the delivery of high-quality teaching and research’’, half of the students who took part in my online survey felt only ‘moderately safe’ on campus while a tiny minority, only 5%, reported feeling ‘extremely safe’. By contrast, 55% said they had been offered drugs while on campus, including weed, balloons, acid, cocaine and MDMA. Nearly two-thirds of my respondents (64%) were of the opinion that the university is not doing a good job in keeping them safe while on campus, although an even higher percentage (82%) reported that they had never experienced any act of violence on university premises.

But now that we understand fear of crime can be as immobilising as crime itself, surely it is time for the university to do more to assuage the level of anxiety about drug-related crime that is continuously felt by what appears to be the majority of its students.