It is easy to assume that St Andrews is completely and totally safe. However, such an assumption can be dangerous to students as they may render themselves oblivious to any potential danger. No town, St Andrews included, can fully eliminate crime; pretending it does not exist is hardly a smart course of action.
Nonetheless, the generally safe and calm environment of the bubble makes it easy to slip into certain behaviors. Male and female students regularly walk home alone, in the dark and late at night. Missing items are more typically the collateral damage of a night out than of actual theft. And students routinely leave laptops and purses unattended in the library, operating under the specious logic that no one there would steal their stuff because surely they have something nicer already. Furthermore, how is one supposed to save a spot in a second-floor cubby without leaving a placeholder?
Of course, these routines are reinforced by St Andrews’ reputation as a sleepy town full of students. Police are rarely spotted, except on Raisin weekend when they appear in full force.
Whilst the annual crime statistics hardly provoke alarm, the rare disturbing event can upset the image of St Andrews as a safe haven for the students here. For example, in 2011 an American student at the University was accused of attempted murder after having spiked the drink of one of his fellow Americans with antifreeze. Obviously, this is an extreme example of crime in St Andrews, but it does show that extreme things have happened here.
Additionally, last semester all students received an e-mail from Police Scotland appealing to witnesses of an assault that took place close to the Gateway early one weekday evening. Upon learning that a young woman was assaulted so close to town, some students newly avoided walking by the Gateway in the dark.
Whilst none of these events disqualify St Andrews from being a relatively safe place to live, each proves that crime does occur here. Earlier this year, The Saint examined crime statistics for the town of St Andrews between 2012 and 2013. Out of the crimes most likely to affect students – e.g. burglary, robbery, and violent crime – the results showed than an average of 1.5 such crimes per 1,000 St Andrews residents.
According to the University’s website, the most common type of reported crime amongst students is ‘opportunity theft’. This classification refers to the theft of personal items such as wallets and cell phones that have been left unattended. In regards to other types of crime, the University advertises that crimes of violence and indecency are less common.
In accordance with their goal of providing ‘an environment in which students and staff can study, work and live safely and without fear of crime’, the University encourages students and staff members to report crime, as it is the best deterrent against future criminal activity by the same offender.
There are many resources available to students wishing to increase their awareness of safety protocol. The Complete University Guide offers many tips in the way of common sense behaviors: drink responsibly, stay with your group, invest in a bike lock, keep your phone charged and accessible.
As the University professes on its website, ‘every student, member of staff and visitor shares responsibility for their safety, the welfare of others, and the protection of the University’s assets’. It is hard to fully accept this personal responsibility without acknowledging that, though safe, St Andrews is not immune to crime.