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Student muggings spark row over lights

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 06, 2012

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Controversial plans to switch off streetlights in Exeter have prompted an angry backlash from students.

The University of Exeter Students' Guild and the student newspaper Exeposé have joined forces to fight Devon County Council's scheme to turn off street lights at night to save cash and energy.

They have launched a campaign called Save Our Streetlights following a string of recent muggings and assaults on students in the city.

More than 1,500 students and staff at the university have signed a petition against the plans, which would see many of Exeter's 12,000 street lights turned off or dimmed between 12.30am and 5.30am to save money and reduce its carbon footprint. The city has been earmarked for the first phase of the new system, which would eventually be rolled out across Devon.

The Students' Guild, which started campaigning on the issue in 2010, has described the plans as "reckless".

Last month several students were reportedly mugged and physically assaulted at night in residential areas close to the city centre.

A female student was injured and had her bag snatched during an incident on October 19, outside Exeter City Football Club on St James Road. In a separate incident, on October 16, a male student was knocked to floor and had his wallet stolen on Pennsylvania Road.

Grace Hopper, the Guild's vice-president for welfare and community, said: "We have deep concerns that the proposals to reduce street lighting in 'non-essential' areas of Exeter will be a deeply regressive step in the positive work that has been done by the police and partners in combating criminal and anti-social activity in recent years.

"Furthermore, we believe the dimming of lights in 'essential' areas could have serious effects on the numbers of traffic-related incidents, personal attacks and could undo the widely-held belief that Exeter is a safe space for all of its' residents." Tom Payne, Exeposé editor, said: "Exeposé's main concern is that residential areas set to be affected by the switch-off are becoming hot-spots for muggings and physical abuse on students.

"The campaign has really hit a nerve with students and exposed the reality of what is happening on the streets."

PCSO Sarah Bloor, who currently covers the areas of Pennsylvania, Duryard and the university, said robbery was "more likely" to take place in quiet or dark areas.

Local Inspector Terry Bissessar said police were working closely with students and campus security staff in the areas of sexual offences, theft and burglary prevention.

A spokesman for Devon County Council said it hoped to implement part-night lighting in Exeter next year.

"We plan to hold consultation meetings around the city but haven't set dates yet, but will advertise them widely so we can gather as many views as possible.

"We know there are concerns from some areas of the city, and that's what we're hoping to get a feel for from the consultation, before final decisions about the detail are made."

Read more from Exeter Express and Echo

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  • APExeter  |  November 07 2012, 1:52PM

    Every single student who pays council tax to ECC should get a right to vote on this issue...

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  • Stuboy13  |  November 07 2012, 10:18AM

    Why has a string of recent muggings and assaults prompted this campaign? Surely if there's been attacks recently whilst the lights are still on then turning them off wont make a massive difference. It may even help things, students could take a binbag or 2 out with them and if they feel in danger, pop it over their heads and hide in the shadows.

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  • exebomb  |  November 07 2012, 9:28AM

    I think this isn't just about students this affects everyone, I'm a working stiff but I like a night out that lasts until the wee hours, i thing dropping lights in residential areas is reckless, there is a reason why lights were put there in the first place which is public safety so by Devon CC own logic turning them of would be risky to the public's safety so the message they are sending is that they are happy to put us at risk to save a tiny bit of money. Maybe they should consider the cost of increased calls to emergency services? Not everything is about money and they are there to support our interests.

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  • davee  |  November 06 2012, 11:27PM

    al111966, I agree that students can make themselves vulnerable by drinking too much, but a victim does not choose to be mugged. I have never met an apologist for mugging before, try this one: If a young women is raped in Exeter would she deserve it being drunk or for wearing a short skirt?

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  • al111966  |  November 06 2012, 6:58PM

    Perhaps if the students didn't get so drunk that would reduce their chances of being mugged or hit by traffic too. A far higher percentage of them get hurt due to their state of intoxication and simply falling over or becoming involved in altercations due to their inability to behave sensibly. As usual it won't be the students who will be expected to take any of the blame.

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