Student security needed

LUCY TOWNEND AND KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 15/07/2014
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A home invasion on a student-dominated Palmerston North street has highlighted safety concerns in the city, with student leaders calling for more support.

Police were called to a Morris St flat about 5.45am on Sunday, after a woman was awoken by a man in her room.

The man grabbed the woman and the pair struggled until her screams alerted a flatmate, resulting in the man running away.

Detective Sergeant Shelley Ross said yesterday police were still seeking sightings of the man, and had not received any calls from the public about him yet.

Massey University Students' Association (MUSA) president Linsey Higgins said assaults, attacks and sexual abuse were "societal issues" that required more public discussion.

"Palmy is generally a safe community but these attacks are becoming more common, which is a real concern," she said.

"You hear stories of people getting attacked. We [MUSA] don't have hard numbers, but we've heard the reports . . . and as a community we need to be addressing this and saying this is completely unacceptable."

Following a spate of student attacks in Wellington, on-campus security was improved at Massey's Manawatu site, including installing more help points, better lighting and cutting greenery to improve visibility for students walking to halls of residence.

But it was harder when young people were living in the city, with students sometimes unaware of how to lobby landlords for improved security measures, Higgins said.

"Because they're younger, there is a feeling of invincibility and often an ‘it-will-never-happen-to-me' mindset," Higgins said.

"How many people would expect to get attacked in their own room? It would be horrible; there needs to be better awareness around the issue."

Association of Students at UCOL (AS@U) president Miranda Orpin said students faced challenges with security options in rental properties because tenants could not install an alarm system or window locks without the consent of the landlord.

"This process can often be quite cumbersome to navigate and as a result, many students who are flatting for the first time don't know what precautions to take to keep themselves and their property safe."

There had been several multi-agency-driven safety projects, such as Project Vanguard, Operation Combi and the City Angel, which had lifted students' awareness about keeping their homes safe from intruders, preventing fires and reducing alcohol-related harm and victimisation to young women.

A project aimed at safety practices in rental properties would be welcomed, Orpin said.

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"There is more that can be done, the information just needs to be made available and brought to our attention."

Police are appealing for assistance in identifying the male intruder. He is described as being of medium build and average height, with short hair. He was wearing a dark-coloured hoody and was also described as smelling of cannabis.

Anyone with information about the incident or the offender is asked to contact Detective Constable Claire Adkins on (06) 351 3600 or Crimestoppers, 0800 555 111.

- Manawatu Standard

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