As first year comes to an end in Leeds, and former-freshers are thrust from the comforts of University accommodation, most flock to Hyde Park to seek refuge.
Hyde Park has, simultaneously, both a great and an awful reputation. It’s close to the University. It’s lively. It’s brimming with good takeaways, and all of your friends live mere minutes away. It’s also a hotbed of burglary, theft and anti-social behaviour.
Mention burglary in Leeds, and you’ll likely be answered with a chorus of ‘That happened to me once!’ or ‘My friend got burgled last week’.
Burglary has become so common in Leeds’ student areas that it’s almost seen as a normal part of the University experience. But are these crimes on the increase, or has it always been this bad?
Literally there’s a house burgled EVERYDAY on Hyde park/Headingley 😅
— georgiana (@GeeDodsworthxo) February 1, 2018
Freedom of Information requests sent to West Yorkshire Police have suggested that the levels of both burglary and personal theft have been steadily rising in Headingley and Hyde Park.
Between October 2015 and September 2016, there were 403 reported burglaries in Headingley and Hyde Park. Last year, between October 2017 and September 2018, there were 613 reported burglaries.
This is a 52% increase in residential burglaries in the area, in just a two-year timespan.
There was a similar increase in reports of robbery of personal property in the area. Between October 2015 and September 2016, there were 45 reports of personal theft.
Two years later, between October 2017 and September 2018, the number of personal theft incidents reported had risen to 62 – an increase of 38%.
Dunno if I'm emotionally ready for the constant 'am I gonna be burgled' drama of living in Hyde park after countryside living for 3 months
— JM (@jxssmitchell) September 8, 2017
For those who have just moved out of student accommodation, Freshers’ Week is often their first week living in Hyde Park. Perhaps because people aren’t as safety-cautious when they first move to student housing, or perhaps because they often return from a Summer at home with new, expensive valuables, Freshers’ Week seems to be one of the most dangerous periods for crime against students.
During Freshers’ Week in 2016, there were 7 burglaries reported in Headingley and Hyde Park. The average number of burglaries per week during this time period was 7.75, suggesting that 2016’s Freshers’ Week didn’t show unusually high burglary levels.
Statistics for the Freshers’ period in 2017 and 2018 appear to tell a different story. 2017’s Freshers’ Week saw 27 burglaries, 160% higher than the year’s average of 10.3 reported burglaries per week. This year, 24 burglaries were reported during the Freshers’ period, 104% higher than the year’s weekly average of 11.8 burglaries.
The overall trend shows that, since 2015, reports of both burglaries and personal theft have increased greatly in the Headingley and Hyde Park areas.
A 2011 report by the Audit Commission noted that poorer quality private housing than the national average, high levels of houses with multiple independent tenants, and transient populations (such as students, who normally only live in Hyde Park for a maximum of two years) all contribute to the problem of rising burglaries in Leeds’ student-heavy areas.
This report also highlighted another problem: not all crimes are reported. The statistics received from the West Yorkshire Police don’t tell the whole story; it’s impossible to know how many crimes go unreported. The report suggests that under-reporting is more likely in poorer, more transient areas, such as Leeds’ student areas.
It’s easy to see why not all crimes are reported; a recent Freedom of Information request revealed that 47% of crimes in West Yorkshire aren’t fully investigated, including 61% of burglaries in 2017.
Although it’s unlikely that offenders will be caught, it’s important that burglaries and personal theft are reported. More accurate statistics will put increased pressure on the police and on Leeds City Council to combat the ever-growing issue of crime against students in Leeds.
Megan Cummings, News Editor
Image; [Megan Cummings]