Student shaken by bike assault

Jess Touschek 6 November 2008

Hughes Hall MCR has sparked concerns over student safety in the vicinity of Mill Road. The victim, who was cycling home at the reasonably early time of 8.30pm on Monday of last week, was knocked off her bike by a gang of 5 or 6 adolescents who then stole her rucksack.

The attack took place on Mortimer Road, the street behind the Kelsey Kerridge Sports Centre on which, along with the main entrance to Hughes Hall, eight Gonville and Caius college hostels are located.

The victim, who has declined to comment on her ordeal, suffered only minor injuries, but students of both colleges have been left shaken by fears of the for further attacks in the future.

This anxiety is compounded by the knowledge that this is not the first such incident to have occurred on the street recently. Earlier this term another Hughes Hall student was harassed by a group of young adults, this time in a car. There have also been at least two cases of bicycle theft outside the Caius hostels.

Laura Corrigan, a resident of one of these hostels said “usually I feel quite safe on my bike at night, but now I’m more wary outside my house than I am on Parker’s Piece. Before moving here I’d always considered Cambridge a pretty unthreatening part of the world; these attacks have definitely changed my mind.”

Asked to comment on the incident, the President of Hughes Hall MCR, Adam Leonard, observed that “obviously it is upsetting when such attacks occur, especially when, like this one, they happen so close to home and so early in the evening. Happily they are relatively rare.” He informed TCS that the “college has responded by opening a new dialogue with the City of Cambridge Police, and Hughes MCR has been in communication with Caius JCR.”

Having alerted the police to the incident, both colleges sent around emails informing their student bodies of the assault and urging them to be vigilant to potential threats when moving around not only in this specific area, but throughout Cambridge in general. Hughes students were urged to pay more careful attention to “where we travel, how we travel, with whom, what we carry and how we carry ourselves.” The Caius email echoed this sentiment, adding that “it may be a good idea not to be wearing an Ipod/MP3 as it will mask the sound of persons approaching and is an attractive item to would be thieves.”

In addition to providing this advice, Hughes Hall is also looking to implement more active measures against future criminal activity on Mortimer Road. Speaking to TCS, the Senior Tutor, Reverend Dr Philip Raymont, revealed that he was “writing to the Cambridge City Council, asking them to investigate the possibility of CCTV and better lighting.”

The problem of inadequate lighting is not confined to Mortimer Road, however. According to Welfare Officer Andrea Walko, CUSU are acutely aware of this and “are planning on a lighting campaign later this year.” It will be concentrated on three areas they have identified as presenting a particularly significant risk to a large proportion of the student body: Parker’s Piece, Sheep’s Green, and West Road.

In the meantime, Walko advised, students travelling around the city after nightfall should “always move in a group at night,” keeping as far as possible to well-lit areas. They might also “consider buying an attack alarm”, which, she emphasised, are available to purchase from CUSU.

She stressed, however, that, even if one does possess such a device, one shouldn’t “assume that means you’re completely safe” ,nor use it as an excuse not to adopt fundamental safety precautions.

Reverend Raymont, while agreeing wholeheartedly about the need for these measures, was at pains to emphasise that the recent spate of crime on Mortimer Road is by no means typical and that it should not discourage people from choosing to live in the area. “I had no reports of incidents last year,” he said; “I think this part of town a perfectly lovely place to live.”

Jess Touschek