Student life usually extends beyond the blue fences of campus into Hatfield and beyond. All in all, it’s a pretty safe haven. But let’s also be realistic. It is not crime free. It’s going to be fine, but just in case, read on.

BEYERS DE VOS

It is rumoured that there is an article somewhere else in this paper (on page 4 if you are the kind of person who believes rumour) which details the campus security services and all the marvellous things they do to make sure that life on campus is happy and snug and free of thugs (but not rhyming). However, student life, unless you’re a stereotypical engineering student, usually extends beyond the blue fences of campus into Hatfield and beyond. Hatfield is, for the most part, safe. The mighty hands of campus security reach out into areas around the residences, covering a significant area between main and LC campuses, and the Brooklyn police station is a convenient neighbour, while the Hatfield CID (city improvement district) has security officers and CCTV cameras up all over the suburb. All in all, it’s a pretty safe haven. But let’s also be realistic. It is not crime free. Bad things do happen and over the next few years you will have friends who are victims of crime (statistical truth). Listen, it’s going to be fine. But just in case, read on.

Scenario 1: I live in my car

The scene of the crime: Anywhere students dare to park.

Worst case: Your car gets stolen. The car you probably just got from proud parents, who will skin you alive when something happens to it. Ja, that car.

The truth of the matter: Parking around campus is a reality that is unavoidable. If you want to drive to campus your mornings will be ruined by parking (another statistical truth). But cars tend to be safe. Having your car stolen during the day in the campus area is rare. But having things stolen out of your car is almost an inevitability if you leave them lying around.

Preventative measures: Don’t leave valuables in your cars – iPods, laptops, cameras, money, bags that have a myriad of valuable things in them lying enticingly on the back seat like some pot of gold. Or park in the parkade located near the engineering building, reached via University Road, which is open to anyone, at a cost. You will probably be paying the car guard just as much anyway. Remember that you can park on campus after four in the afternoon as well.

The usual suspects: Car guards. They are a reality and you will have to deal with them every day. Most of them are harmless and more often than not they do in fact protect your car. But remember, what they are doing is technically illegal and you cannot necessarily give them your car keys or trust them with your belongings (it happens).

Scenario 2: Party time, now sponsored by Rohypnol

The scene of the crime: Hatfield Square (and other party places).

Worst case: Okay, it’s getting serious for a moment. Date rape. This is a reality (see Perdeby in the next few weeks for a full article on this issue) and mark these words – it could happen to you. This is not an attempt to be dramatic; this is a serious warning about a very plausible reality. The reason someone spikes your drink is to rape you. If you wake up in an unfamiliar place, without remembering how you got there, go get tested and then go to the police. Immediately.

The truth of the matter: If your drink gets spiked, you will probably notice, and normally you will be surrounded by a group of friends who will also notice, take you home to deal with the messy consequences and it will all end there: with nothing more but a very bad hangover.

Preventative measures: Don’t accept open drinks from strangers. Watch the barmen as they make your drink – always be sure you know what was put in them. Don’t leave your drink standing around unattended. If your drink tastes funny, if you feel yourself getting light headed without explanation, if there is any subtle colour change to your drink, if you think there is anything suspicious about a drink, dump it.

The usual suspects: Stranger danger. This article cannot tell you that someone who spikes drinks is a creepy, middle-aged man sitting alone at the bar talking to himself, because unfortunately the world doesn’t operate in clichés. Chances are the culprit is a normal and charming guy. Don’t accept open drinks from someone you don’t know, no matter how cute their dimples are. Simple.

Scenario 3: Pockets for the picking

The scene of the crime: The streets of Hatfield, particularly those surrounding the Square.

Worst case: It turns into a mugging.

The truth of the matter: Your stuff will probably get stolen out of your pockets at some point in the near future. Or, in what isn’t exactly pick-pocketing, but a derivative worth discussing, your purse or bag will get snatched. This normally happens when you’re out partying or walking back to your car. Inattentive students who have just had a few drinks are easy targets. But no one can predict when someone is going to take a chance. Bags disappearing from lecture halls is not an uncommon occurrence either.

The usual suspects: There are pick-pockets all over Hatfield. Any stranger who approaches you and tries to engage you in conversation or distract you somehow, by trying to hug you or lean in and shake your hand, for example, is a suspect.

Preventative measures: Don’t leave your bags unattended. Putting them under the table and then forgetting about them has been many a victim’s downfall. Even in lectures, make sure you can feel or see your bag at all times. After a night out when walking back to your car, walk with your hands in your pockets and try to walk in a group. Also, don’t bring valuables out with you. Bring a pre-determined amount of cash, not your whole purse or wallet, and an old phone which isn’t irreplaceable, if you have that luxury. Don’t go walking into any isolated places after dark by yourself. And don’t, if the situation turns more serious, try and play the hero by taking on anyone who has a weapon.

These are examples of the most common instances of crime in Hatfield, just in case you ever find yourself in one of those situations. A few more handy hints: Report any crimes to the police or to campus security. The university has excellent trauma counselling services available on campus, for free. If you need help, help is always available. Please contact the relevant authorities if you are in trouble, they really are there to help you (you can find all their details in Perdeby in the News section, on page 7). Lastly, pepper spray is not a myth. Use it.

Photo: Bonita Lubbe

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