JesmondLocal hosts anti-social behaviour debate

 

Student anti-social behaviour was on the agenda at a public debate hosted by JesmondLocal on  January 24th.

Jesmond residents met to discuss measures to tackle ongoing problems in the area and put their questions to a panel of experts.

The panel chaired by Ian Wylie, editor of JesmondLocal, included university bosses, student union presidents, local councillors and residents’ representatives.

The Question Time-style debate took place at the Royal Grammar School in Jesmond and was live streamed on Facebook.

The decision to organise the debate follows a series of disturbances and a growing number of complaints about  anti-social behaviour in the area.

With growing anger at students amid permanent residents, the event was set to ease the tension and make “two communities one”.

At the end of the night a 16-point plan of suggestions on how to remedy the situation, including residents providing information to newly-arriving students on bin collections, signs nudging all residents to be aware of making noise, increased funding from universities for end-of-term cleanups, and residents and students meeting for Sunday roasts,

Last academic term Jesmond saw 505 witnessed events and particularly “upsetting” reports from  concerned residents.

Speaking at the event, Karl Wilson, Chief Inspector of Northumbria Police, noted that “statistically, the reports are going down quite significantly from 2014. However, the nature of these disorders seem to have changed.”

It was suggested by one audience member that the nature of student parties had evolved because of alcohol, drugs or the type and number of people invited.

Audience members blamed the booze, pointing to vomits on the streets of Jesmond. One of them said: “Jesmond is an absolute dirty mess. It is disgusting.”

Audience members attacked both universities for not being responsible for its students and urged them to introduce more penalties.

Dr John Hogan, registrar at Newcastle University, said: “Come 18 students are adults. We have absolutely no control over adults other than the fact that they are registered as students.”

Answering the question about fines, Dr Hogan said: “We use fines as a deterrent and our record shows where that has happened we do not have many repeated events. We fine more than we would want to.”

But not everyone was in favour of increasing sanctions for students – some argued that the warning system should become more robust.

Jack Taylor, President of Newcastle University Students’ Union, said: “We’ve got to be careful about the way we treat students. £30 fine for a student is often quite a lot. The student who can’t afford a £30 fine can’t necessarily eat for a week.”

The panel faced a series of questions from the audience about introducing more police in Jesmond.

But there are more “significant challenges” for the police in Newcastle and Gateshead, the Chief Inspector said, as Jesmond remains one of the safest places to live in.

Wilson said: “What we are facing is organisational significant complex challenges. Every single day everyone needs us, and, unfortunately, we make tough decisions as an organisational service.”

Felicity Mendelson, Labour councillor for South Jesmond, said: “I don’t think we need a greater police presence in Jesmond. We are a very low-crime area of the city. We need to work together on solutions.”

This view was supported by the audience members, as one of the tweets sent during the event read: “Far more that unites us than divides us. Need to find some common ground and communicate.”

The panel of experts and the public said they would work in partnership with students to resolve current issues.

One of the suggestions was to appoint student community wardens from both universities similar to successful Oxford’s scheme.

Others suggested guiding young people to become a part of local community and helping them not to get lost.

Speaking after the event, Andrew Stark, a Newcastle University student and Jesmond resident, said: “I don’t think it was a very welcoming environment for students. As a student, I feel less welcomed now than I was before.”

Only a small number of students turned up for the debate.

5 thoughts on “JesmondLocal hosts anti-social behaviour debate”

  1. PB says:

    I couldn’t attend this meeting due to work commitments. It seems that was a good thing as nothing constructive came of it. Simply the Universities paying lip service to the residents. In the meantime I still have to suffer the anti-social, disrespectful, self-entitled behaviour of spoiled brats who have no consideration for others, their surroundings or other peoples belongings. Aggressive physical contact on my own doorstep and homophobic and insulting comments hurled at me through my own letter box because I had the audacity to ask for some quiet at 2am on a Wednesday morning and the punishment for such behaviour was nothing more than a ticking off, if that.
    I worked hard to be able to afford to purchase in Jesmond. I expected to be moving to a peaceful, well maintained and beautiful area and looked forward to integrating into the community. Instead I’ve been subjected to misery and being told it’s my own fault for moving to a ‘student area’.
    Students and permanent residents simply will never mix. They need to reside in halls and purpose built accommodation in the city centre. The properties that have been outrageously granted use as HMO’s for 6 people returned to family use. Only then will I be able to bring some tranquility and happiness back to my life while the students drink themselves into a stupor, contentedly squandering their loans without hindrance from those of us who just want a normal life.

  2. JesmondLocal says:

    Nothing constructive came of it? We’re all volunteers at JesmondLocal and gave up our evening to provide a forum where students, residents, universities, police and councillors could come together to gain a better understanding of the issues and discuss possible solutions. With the help of the audience and panel members, we concluded the meeting with a list of more than a dozen ideas for improving relations between the two communities, and the panel members have agreed to continue the conversation with each other about how they might put some of these into practice. So we certainly don’t consider it a wasted evening.

  3. PB says:

    I fail to see how hosting roast dinners for the students is likely to improve relations or recind the behaviour they exhibit when they are inebriated. Putting signs up asking them to be quiet will do nothing – why is a sign going to make them be more considerate when directly asking them the same thing has no influence?
    I commend the people who made time for the meeting, something I could not do. I don’t infer that the people who made the effort to attend and those who arbitrated voluntarily have wasted their efforts. That inference was never made in my original comment and I see no reason why you have taken clearly personal insult. I maintain that the evening, from what I have read, has not resulted in anything of substantial effect.
    Something I have learned from my first hand experience is that you cannot reason with a drunken person. They may be well natured and reasonable when sober, but they soon become intolerable when they have had a skinful.
    I’d also question just how many of the handful of the students who spoil it for the rest even care that this meeting occurred.
    The excessive drinking culture and the incredible concentration of ill suitable HMO’s are the factors that need addressing.

  4. Steve Miller says:

    As a resident I think ‘things’ are vastly improved. Street noise Wednesday Friday and Saturday was ridiculous, but now its sporadic. There are still a handful of selfish uncaring irresponsible students who quote the student area reply. But these turn into adults who do the same, you can’t change them. I had it quoted at me from a neighbour at the back who wanted his son to ‘enjoy’ his party, regardless. I think the message is getting through and , in the main, our neighbours, residents and students , are living in a more harmonious relationship. Let’s all keep it up.

  5. James says:

    I agree fully with the comments left by PB, having lived in the area for over 1 years I can only say it is getting worse, being woken at 3am at least 3 nights a week by drunken students screaming and running around is not why I moved here. As for the complaints going down, could this be anything to do with the futility of making a complaint in the first place, all night parties being met with the response of police coming out the next afternoon to comment that the noise appears to have subsided doesn’t exactly make someone feel it is always worth making a report. I for one am sick of all the broken glass that now litters our streets but believe that the universities lost interest in helping once students became so profitable to them, £30 is not a lot to someone who can afford to go drinking several times a week, get taxis everywhere and live in Jesmond to start with, very disappointing response.

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