Falmouth councillors have been assured that the two local universities are working with other agencies to combat problems that arise from disruptive student behaviour.
Keith Hawksworth, living support officer for Falmouth University and the University of Exeter; Richard Wilkins, private sector liaison officer and campus PCSO John Dukes, attended a meeting of Falmouth Town Council last month to outline what is being done to address student behaviour.
This followed two incidents where audio equipment had been seized from two addresses in Falmouth after noise abatement notices had been served and ignored.
Councillors heard that the universities have forged links with the police and Cornwall Council’s environmental protection and antisocial behaviour and community safety teams and that every complaint received is investigated.
“On our initial visit, Richard and I will talk to the students about the complaint,” said Mr Hawksworth. “A majority of the time, the students apologise for their behaviour and try and change the way they live. At lot of the time they are 18 or 19-year-olds who have never lived away from home before and are thrown into a house with people they don’t know that well.
“If there is a further problem from the same address within a three month period, we go back with John. Since September, five addresses have had stage one antisocial behaviour notices served upon them.”
If the problem persists, a stage two letter is served which stays with that address for 12 months and that may be followed by a noise abatement notice, as in the two recent cases, when council officers will enter the premises and remove televisions, stereo equipment etc if necessary. The equipment is held for 28 days and then its owner has to pay £560 for its return.
At stage four, the issue is referred to the appropriate university which decides the most suitable action to take against the student/s.
Mr Hawksworth said: “At the end of the day, the university has no legislative powers to deal with student-related issues. We will always investigate a complaint, even if it’s only one person that has made that complaint, but what people don’t realise is that a telephone call is sometimes not enough and we need more evidence.
“We try to be seen to be fair not only to students, but to members of the community – we want to build bridges. The universities and the students are really trying to make sure they are accepted within the community.
“We are not ‘in loco parentis’ - students are over 18, they are adults. We will advise them and talk to them about their impact on the community, but they make their decisions themselves. It’s really important that you as councillors tell us about problems. We can only work on the information we are given.”
Councillor Diana Merrett, who has always been outspoken on student-related issues, said: “I’m very glad the three of you are here tonight to highlight what you have all been working towards. We have not always seen eye-to-eye, but you have worked very hard for our benefit and for the students’ benefit.”