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Birmingham is apparently the ‘safest place to live’ in the UK

An article has been published stating that research conducted by comparison site Compare the Market names Birmingham the ‘safest place to live’ in the UK, but us students beg to differ.

The article, posted on Birmingham Live, states that ‘the investigation—by price comparison website Compare the Market—considered factors including crime, property damage, local medical services and weather’, but as a second-year UoB student living in Selly Oak, myself and many people that I know have all been negatively affected by at least one of these issues within the last year.

There are so many reasons to criticise this claim, I almost don’t know where to begin.

Thankfully, I myself have not been threatened or followed while living in Selly Oak, but as a member of a Facebook page for students at the University of Birmingham, I have never seen so many posts reporting crime and suspicious behaviour than in the last two weeks. One of my friends recently turned up at my house saying that in the three minutes it took her to arrive, she was followed by men in a car banging on the window and shouting at her, and anyone would quickly discover after ten minutes on Facebook that stories like hers are everywhere.

Selly Oak has never exactly been known for being a safe area, but the issue became one of grave importance on Sunday 7th October when a man was stabbed in a car-jacking attempt on Heeley Road.

Following this incident, outrage has been sparked among students at the University of Birmingham, who are claiming that neither the local police nor the university itself is doing enough to secure our safety. Thousands (myself included) have signed a petition demanding greater security and more attention to be dedicated to the matter from both the council and university.

However, it’s difficult to place blame here, as while the university clearly has a duty of care over its students, the council is responsible for Selly Oak and all of its residents—students or not. The victim of the crime didn’t go to UoB, and even though UoB students were present and affected by the incident, this only goes to show that action needs to extend beyond the university.

The university is taking action to make a difference, with a new night bus service scheduled to run between Selly Oak and campus and personal alarms being given out in abundance, but students won’t feel safe until they can see that action is being taken by the local council to up police patrols and the presence of the officers in the area. The police service is acting more like an ambulance or fire-brigade service at the moment: responding to crime as it occurs rather than patrolling and preventing it before it occurs.

People are also calling for increased CCTV and lighting in the streets, and for landlords to be pressured to make housing safer. I am one of many students who has actually had to resort to taping personal alarms to their back doors because they aren’t secure enough, and many think it’s ridiculous that this is how far it’s gone. It is clear that more needs to be done, and research like this doesn’t help the attitude of those who could be making a difference.

It seems appalling that research such as this is being presented in the wake of an attempted murder, and it makes you wonder what the publishers were thinking.

Already, it’s clear that the researchers don’t seem to have taken enough into account. On a less severe (but still important) note, the claim that the weather is particularly safe in Birmingham is pretty weak—not only is the weather unpredictable and out of our control, but are we forgetting the severe flash-flooding that occurred throughout Birmingham this spring? Granted, my experience was more hilarious than dangerous—I myself fell victim to running through knee-deep water as my bus waited, stranded, in the middle of the road.

However, while it was entertaining seeing videos and photos of people swimming in the street and sitting on the roofs of their houses, I wouldn’t exactly say it made me feel safe. I witnessed plenty of photos of cars floating in parts of Selly Oak, and people’s houses and belongings were being ruined by floodwater.

This may have been a one-off incident, but can anyone seriously claim that Birmingham is the safest city in the UK because it has an ‘average of nine annual days of thunder’?

And how many one-off incidents will it take before people start to realise that Birmingham is far from the ‘safest place’ in the UK?

It only goes to prove that using statistics to generate a false sense of security does much more harm than good. On paper, Birmingham could have come across a safe haven, but my experience here so far simply confirms that safety cannot be dulled down to numbers. To confidently say that their research is ‘a comprehensive insight into the safety of the UK’ is an insult to the hundreds of students afraid to leave their houses alone.

There is no point trying to promote a city by saying it is ‘safe’.

By all means, attract people to Birmingham with its vibrant city life, but you will never be able to reduce safety to an encouraging statistic. Any city is safe until you take a wrong turn, and it seems that in Birmingham that wrong turn takes you right into the heart of Selly Oak.

Birmingham is a lively, exciting and colourful city with a university that I will forever love being a part of, and I only hope that changes are made soon so that people can stop hiding behind bogus statistics and empty statements and promote the city with the truth.

Featured image: Marso / Shutterstock.com

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