Mention the word Portswood and chances are the conversation will go in one of two ways: either people will begin to recount various drunken escapades in Jesters and/or Sobar or a story they heard about a friend of a friend whose house was broken into or who was followed home by some creepy guy.
But just how bad is Portswood really? How many of the stories that wind their way around campus are actually true? Is it actually as crime-riddled as we all think?
We’ve all heard horror stories in the news about the assaults and attacks on students, made more worrying by the fact they are so close to home. With more and more reports of crimes in Portswood, should we be worried about living there? With a high percentage of Southampton students residing in the area, it surely cannot be as bad as people claim it is.
According to the website www.police.uk (which records statistics for reported crimes in the U.K.) crime rates in Portswood fell between 2009 and 2010. This lower level of crime – around 70-recorded crimes per 1,000 of the population- remained level for 2011, leaving Portswood with a crime level in line with the national average. However, a closer look at specific types of crimes shows that there were three areas which were above the national average: Shoplifting, Public disorder & Possession of weapons and Violent Crime.
Looking at the statistics for Feburary of this year (the most recent numbers they have) 433 crimes were reported in total, with 175 of those cases being for anti-social behaviour; in an area that is regularly filled with drunken students, this isn’t really all that surprising. There were only 2 cases of robbery making it the lowest reported type of crime.
Whilst doing some research for this article I had a look through all of the crimes that Wessex Scene has reported on so far this year. In total I counted 7, the majority of which concerned the sexual assualts that occurred towards the beginning of the year. Numbers of sexual assaults increased by 3.77% between 2010-2011 in the whole of England, and by 1.06% in Hampshire.
Unfortunate as it may be, the fact is that anywhere that has a lot of women going out, in many cases drinking and then often walking home alone there is going to be an increased risk of sexual assault. Thankfully however, it is a form of crime for which you can reduce the risk, relatively easily:
1) Make sure you don’t leave your drink unattended at any time or if you do don’t drink it. It is worth spending another £2 if it prevents you drinking a spiked drink.
2) NEVER walk home alone! We have all been there when you lose your friends, or they don’t want to leave at the same time as you and you don’t want/ don’t have enough to pay for a taxi alone. But with the new taxi scheme (which involves you leaving your ID with the driver then going to SUSU to pay for your taxi fare the next day), not having enough cash is no longer an excuse. Yet again, those few extra pounds could be the difference between a safe ride home and the worst night of your life.
I’m sure that these are all things that we have been told a thousand times before, but there is a reason for that! And remember boys: it is just as important that you are careful too.
Obviously everywhere has crime and it turns out that in comparison, levels in Portswood are largely the same as/lower than many other university areas. Using www.crimerates.co.uk I compared Portswood to Norwich, Exeter and Portsmouth; in all three cases Portsmouth came out as the safer place to live. Now obviously I know that these are bigger cities, so crime rates are more likely to be higher, but this site works by looking at crime rates in relation to population size. In the case of Norwich, Portswood had higher rates of burglary and vehicle crime and Exeter had higher rates of burglary but Portsmouth had higher rates in all areas.
So having done the research and played around with various interactive graphs and tables, it turns out that Portswood isn’t all that bad a place to live. Sure, it won’t be winning any awards for its beauty any time soon, but looks aren’t everything. Yes it may have a slight excess of concrete, but it also has the things we all need and more often than not those things are cheap. If the majority of the student population’s love of Jesters is anything to go by, then I think it’s safe to say that we are all willing to put up with a bit of grime in order to have a good time.