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Pupils are prey as burglars pilfer student digs

18th September 2017 Print

Students across the UK are left vulnerable to theft as burglars target student accommodation for their loot, according to research from Direct Line Home Insurance. Since 2014, students have lost almost £25 million to thieves, as they become easy prey in university towns.

The study found that one in four students are burgled whilst at university, with 80 per cent of student thefts occurring at city universities, making campus universities four times safer to attend. Over 660,000 students are burgled in the UK every year, which equates to around 1,800 pupils preyed on every single day.

Surprisingly, students are no safer living in halls as thieves appear to be undeterred by the extra security measures provided by universities. Students living in halls on campuses, however, were the safest in the country, with only one in ten falling victims to burglars. Interestingly, boys living in halls or residence at university were almost twice as likely to be victims of theft as girls living in halls. Males living in rented accommodation were only four per cent more likely to have experienced theft than females.

In the past three years alone, thieves have stolen almost £2 million worth of students’ laptops, as mobile phones come second in the list of most commonly stolen items, followed by money and bicycles. Despite being safer on average, campus universities are targeted by burglars for their biggest hauls, with a quarter of all reported thefts being big electronic items such as televisions and games consoles. For students in city based accommodation, smaller items such as money (39 per cent) and smaller electronic equipment like phones (38 per cent) were most commonly stolen.

Whilst not the most commonly stolen item in either case, the cost of replacing students’ stolen jewellery over the last three years could equal as much as £10 million, a sign that burglars are certainly prospering from pilfering vulnerable pupils. It is clear that in some cases, the thieves weren’t picky about what they stole, with a number of strange, and seemingly undesirable, objects being stolen from university students such as clocks, rugs and fishing equipment. Thieves also appear to be undeterred by personal prescription items, as their thefts of contact lenses and glasses cost students more than their university fees every year.

Dan Simson, head of home insurance at Direct Line, commented: “Heading off to university is a daunting and exciting time; insurance is likely to be the last thing on any student’s mind as they prepare to embark on the next stage of their lives, without the safety net of their parents.

“When even books often feel too expensive, should the worst happen, nobody wants to be paying a fortune to replace their stolen possessions. Insurance is a relatively small price to pay compared to the hassle and cost of buying a new phone or laptop.”

Direct Line’s top tips to thwart thieves at university:

Make sure you do not leave any entrances to your accommodation unlocked, that includes internal doors in halls of accommodation, as burglars still target campuses for their thefts

Keep all expensive personal belongings out of sight through the window, and give burglars the impression that you are home by using timer switches on lights and radios

Invest in a proper bike lock, and make sure to alternate where you leave your bike when securing it so that thieves cannot learn your routine and plan their burglaries. Don’t forget to lock your bike up even if it is in your garden. Consider secure places to store your belongings if you are leaving during the holidays

Mark possessions with a UV pen, and in that time do a full inventory of all of the furniture and important belongings in your house. You can send your parents this list to look after for you should you need it, and it also helps when you are packing up your things at the end of the year, reminding you to retrieve all of the belongings you lent your friends all those months ago

Keep the exterior of your house similar to others down your street. Anything that makes your accommodation look like it belongs to students makes it a target for thieves who expect relaxed university students to be easy prey. Beer can pyramids might be a great show for your friends, but it’s a dead giveaway that your house belongs to students

Ask for copies of all relevant safety certificates, like gas and electric. If your landlord does not have one to give you should an appliance cause damage to your home, your insurer might not accept a claim for it

Make sure you check your parents’ home insurance policy before buying insurance with anyone else as, if they are with Direct Line; it’s likely you’re covered with them already

Dan Simson continues: “We all remember our time as students. Their first thought is never to keep their homes safe through uniformity with others on the street as they proudly line up their stolen traffic cones on the front lawn, or students’ union night club timetable centre piece on the living room wall.

“Adding insurance to your university checklist, however, is an important way of relieving some of the stress of sending your kids away to University. Whilst it is hard to combat burglars who target student towns hoping to take advantage of younger people, making sure your belongings are protected, should the worst happen, is something that should always be a priority. If your son or daughter is heading off to university this autumn, it is certainly worth rechecking your own insurance policy to make sure it covers them as well.”