47% of students no longer feel safe on Bowerham Road, Lancaster after theft crime surge.
Between October and November 2021, there was a surge in attempted bike thefts and even home invasions around the Bowerham area. This was concentrated along Bowerham Road with 30 incident reports of burglary and theft to Lancashire Police.
My house was one such victim of attempted burglary.
One of my housemates sleeps in the bedroom downstairs. At around 4 AM, he woke up at the sound of someone knocking over our recycling bags which had luckily been left by the back door. My housemate listened and heard someone moving around the kitchen next to his room. When he opened his bedroom door, whomever it was bolted out of our back door, leaving it wide open.
The rest of us found out about this the next morning. There were varying reactions. I experienced extreme anxiety and struggled to sleep well the next few nights. One of my other housemates fretted over his bike, which was accessible from the kitchen, and considered trying to fit it in his room.
All of us were feeling unsafe in our own home.
Nothing had been taken that we could see but, had we not had a bagful of glass bottles and tin cans ready for recycling, we might never have known someone was in the house.
And we aren’t the only ones to experience something like this. On the 9th of November 2021, a second-year Lancaster University student had a bike stolen from a locked shed.
“I had some friends around for my birthday. I went outside [about 10 PM] to throw out our empty pizza boxes and I noticed that the shed door was open. I was confused but assumed that perhaps I had just forgotten to lock it or something. I went over to shut the door when I realised my bike wasn’t there.
“I started to panic and that’s when I noticed that part of the latch had been ripped off the door and thrown onto the ground. The bike was virtually brand new. I’d had it for less than 6 months.”
When asked about how the investigation was going, the second-year explained:
“I phoned [the police] in the morning once I had calmed down. The lady on the phone was pretty helpful but as it was outside and it had been raining, there wouldn’t have been any forensics for them to find so they didn’t come over and the trail ended there, unfortunately.
“I don’t want to go into [my initial feelings at the time] too much beyond that it ruined the evening for everyone as I was very upset. I’m a lot more aware of the crime rates in Lancaster now. It’s been a bit of a learning curve.
“We now usually leave a light on when we leave the house in the hopes that it will deter people from breaking in and we keep the curtains drawn nearly all the time now. I got a new bike with the insurance money and my savings which I no longer store in the shed. I keep it inside the house, again with the curtains drawn so people can’t see it from the street.
“We’re with LU Living and they came out within a couple of days to fix the latch on the shed, the back gate, and the outdoor light – all things that my flatmate and I asked for to help us feel a bit safer. They even filed down the screws on the new latch so that it would be much harder to break into.
“Unfortunately, they don’t insure bikes when they’re not on campus. It’s probably important that people know that before renting with them. Luckily, my parent’s insurance covered it but that was a bit annoying. It would be nice if they would update their policy to include bikes.”
Multiple bike thefts have been reported in the Bowerham area, including a 3rd-year Biology with Psychology student whose friend’s bike was stolen from their property while they were the only one home.
“It was my friend’s bike, and it was near the winter holidays last year. It wasn’t just that the bike was stolen, it was near to our kitchen door. So basically, got us really scared.
“I told the landlord because she’s really nice and helps out but she was like, ‘A lot of bikes get stolen so it’s no use reporting it because there’s zero per cent chance of the police finding it.”
In November 2021, SCAN learned of a second attempted break-in to a house on an off-street of Bowerham Road. The house in question caught the would-be home invaders on CCTV which has since been handed to the police. The two suspects were reportedly masculine and wearing puffer jackets.
A SCAN reporter on the scene learned from a PCSO that there was a suspected opportunistic burglar in the area. This is someone who will try back doors and sheds for any unlocked entryways into homes or access areas.
When asked about the progress of the investigation in November 2021, our reporter was told that the police had a suspect they knew operated in the area. However, they did not have enough evidence for a warrant.
While speaking to the PCSO, a member of the public approached to report to the officer that two people matching the same description of the suspects had attempted to steal his bike from the back of his house. The bike was reportedly chained and locked.
Since November 2021, Lancashire Police have released no information about the specific recent activity of burglars in the Bowerham area besides a post about daylight savings, warning homeowners that opportunistic burglars are more active at this time of year.
According to Police.UK, in the Bowerham area (included in both Scotforth West and John O’Gaunt & Bowerham on the site), there were 14 reports of burglary and other thefts in October 2021 followed by a further 16 reports in November (counted around Bowerham Road and off-streets).
There is no indication in current statistics that might suggest this is an unexpected increase compared with previous years but students are concerned about the rate at which these incidents have occurred.
Police.UK defines burglary as theft or attempted theft from “premises where access is not authorised.” Robbery is “theft with the use of force or threat of force.” And theft is defined as “theft from a person, motor vehicle, bikes, residential or non-residential properties.”
72 students in a survey hosted on SCAN’s Instagram reported having either experienced burglary, theft, bike theft, or a break-in while living in Lancaster or know someone who has.
Furthermore, 47% of those who answered the poll (62) reported that they did not feel safe in the Bowerham area. This is a massive increase compared to the 9% of 134 surveyed students who reported that they did not feel safe in Lancaster, as a whole.
Part of this could be due to the actions of landlords. While some have received immense help from their landlords:
“The landlord from Mighty Student Living gave a call to the local authorities and as they knew that I was alone in summer, I always used to see cop cars go around until 2 AM.” – 3rd-year Biology with Psychology student.
Others are still feeling unsafe and wary in the Bowerham area:
“My private landlord never showed an ounce of concern [after we had a break-in].” – 3rd-year Lancaster University student.
It is perhaps, then, no coincidence that 91% of students feel safe in Lancaster yet only 53% feel safe in student-central Bowerham.