Newcastle is number one anti-social student hotspot
Newcastle has been revealed as the worst place in Britain for anti-social behaviour by students, according to statistics compiled by the news editor of JesmondLocal published today in The Sunday Times.
One in 10 anti-social behaviour sanctions recorded by all British universities were meted out to Newcastle University students, data gathered by JesmondLocal news editor Chris Stokel-Walker through Freedom of Information requests show.
In an attempt to censure their behaviour, the university has handed out £38,410 in fines in the last three years – an update from figures gathered back in January which proved the initial inspiration for The Sunday Times report.
In January, JesmondLocal showed that students living in Jesmond accounted for 97.6% of all Newcastle University sanctions.
The university fines its students between £30 and £300 for anti-social behaviour, depending on the severity of the situation and whether the council or police were called out to attend the incident.
Newcastle is a tale of two universities: although students from both Northumbria and Newcastle universities live in the city’s suburbs (around 1,000 from Northumbria, and 6,000 from Newcastle), Northumbria University claims to not have recorded a single anti-social incident in the last three years.
It told attendees at JesmondLocal’s ‘Common Ground’ panel discussion in January that it does not fine students for anti-social behaviour.
Photos from student parties in Newcastle featuring professional sound systems, DJs bouncers and often salacious fancy dress themes, have hit the national press.
Earlier this year the local council, police and fire service issued a warning about the risks of overcrowding at so-called “super-parties”.
As JesmondLocal previously reported, in November 2016, police attended incidents around a raucous party held in Jesmond by Newcastle University’s rugby club on a Wednesday evening. The entire rugby club committee was sacked and banned from playing rugby for the remainder of the academic year.
Although sports club initiation ceremonies have been banned by the university since 2014, a Newcastle University representative admitted at the annual general meeting of the Jesmond Residents’ Association earlier this month that they are still happening, while student parties drive some residents with families – and those living alone – to frustration.
72-year-old Donald Forbes, who lives alone on Larkspur Terrace, told JesmondLocal news editor Chris Stokel-Walker that the public perception of Newcastle as a drinking city had a worrying effect on anti-social behaviour in Jesmond.
“If you come to Newcastle you’re coming to a party town, and if you’re coming to Jesmond you’re coming to a student theme park,” he said.
In The Sunday Times’ report, Forbes explained how his car sustained more than £2,500-worth of damage at the hands of drunken students.
He also told Stokel-Walker he had been woken in the middle of the night by a drunken student trying to knock on his first-floor bathroom window.
“It was scary,” he said. “I called the police and they came immediately. This kid was so drunk he was incoherent.”
Hartside Gardens resident Ed Smith told Stokel-Walker that a few years ago he was woken by students playing cricket in the street at 1am. He lives in Jesmond with his wife and two children, aged three and four.
“It’s a mixed bag in Jesmond,” he said. “I have a love-hate relationship with it. I moved here in 2010; I’m married to a former Newcastle University student. I’ve lived in accommodation with my friends. She lived in shared houses as well.
“What’s different now is that that was 15 years ago, and now you’re talking about a much higher population of students.”
James Cowans used to live on Fairfield Road until January, when late-night noise forced him and his partner, a counsellor dealing with suicidal patients, to move out.
Other residents have resorted to soundproofing their home, with some swapping tips in the comment sections of JesmondLocal stories on the best materials to use.
The turning point for Cowans, who now lives near Consett, was a student party in January 2017 that began at 10pm and ran until 7am the following day. Police were called but did not attend the scene until 10am, Cowans told Stokel-Walker.
“I’d been in that flat for 12 years and it had been getting progressively worse,” he said.
“The attitude of the students now – and I’ve seen other people say this – say it’s essentially my fault for living in this area and I should expect to be woken up. The lack of any social conscience is staggering.”
A spokesman for Newcastle University told The Sunday Times: “We recognise that anti-social behaviour is an ongoing issue and that large house parties during the past year have added to this.
“The majority of our students are considerate, respectful young people. Sadly, there is a minority whose behaviour is sometimes unacceptable. We have drawn up an action plan based on suggestions from local residents, and continue to work to tackle this problem.”
Both universities in Newcastle contribute to the funding of Operation Oak, limited police patrols on the streets of Jesmond to tackle anti-social behaviour. However, some residents claim Operation Oak is ineffectual.
The scale of the problem facing the university has compelled it to produce an action plan for Jesmond designed to reduce the impact of student anti-social behaviour. All first-year students at the university will have to attend an induction session stressing the importance of respecting neighbours.
Second-year students at Newcastle will also be given tutorial sessions to smooth over the transition out of halls and into homes in the community, while students entering their third year of study will receive an email from the Vice Chancellor about anti-social behaviour.