Bedfordshire Police is welcoming new students starting their university experience in the county by ensuring they have a safe and enjoyable Freshers Fortnight.
Officers will have a visible presence in the student hotspots of Bedford and Luton during the University of Bedfordshire’s Freshers’ Fayres and the multitude of night-time activities planned for new and returning academics.
The university’s Freshers’ Fortnight kicks off this Saturday (September 24) and runs until Sunday, October 9.
In response to growing trends in cyber criminality, the force will be taking this seasonal opportunity to educate students around the dangers of sharing private sexual images online – so-called ‘sexting’, as well as reinforce advice around sexual consent.
The police will be on hand to give advice about the risks associated with sexting at stalls at the University of Bedfordshire’s welfare events and freshers’ fayres.
Cyber security advisor in the force’s Cyber Hub, Sean O’Neil, said: “Forces across the country are experiencing a worrying trend in young people becoming victim of so-called revenge porn offences, resulting in their private ‘sexts’ being shared with others or posted online without their consent.
“We want to raise awareness of the potential risks of sexting with students as we recognise that the new university year is an exciting time. Inhibitions may be lowered after moving away from home and parental control, many for the first time.
“We will also be able to advise students on a range of cyber safety issues in the hope of helping them stay safe online as well as around their new home of Bedfordshire.”
Sean will also be visiting Cranfield University and Barnfield College during the freshers’ period to share tips with new starters, while additional patrols will be held to police the night-time economy in key nightspot areas.
Licensing officers will be working closely with pub and club venues and taxi companies to help protect people and ensure they get home safely.
Students are encouraged to approach officers for help and advice.
University liaison officer PC Liam Mitchell, said: “We recognise that moving to a new area and starting a new chapter of life can be daunting, so as police it is our role to protect the influx of students to Bedfordshire and ensure they are equipped with the relevant safety and crime prevention advice to stay safe and well.
“Nights out and drinking can often play a major part in student life and this in the backdrop of the busy social scene across the county can lead to potentially dangerous situations.
“We’ll be taking this opportunity to provide advice around key crime areas such as burglary, rape and sexual assault and the rising trend for sexting – and are also keen to remind students to take care, drink sensibly and look out for new friends.”