PSA: The excessive police presence in Cathays is harassment and an insult to students
Seriously, haven’t we suffered enough?
Upon returning to Cardiff three weeks ago, I was aware that this academic year would be very different to my 2 previous years at university. The pandemic has massively impacted our academic lives, with many students now only being guaranteed one hour of in person teaching per week. And as if matters couldn’t get any worse, we have been stripped of our freedom to see our friends and family as Cardiff has entered a local lockdown, in which households are no longer allowed to mix.
With all this in mind, it is safe to say that the year for students has gotten off to a very depressing start. I thought to myself, surely it can’t get any worse, right? Well, I guess I thought wrong.
I’m sure I am not the only person to notice the massive police presence in Cathays since the commencement of the local lockdown last Sunday. An Overheard post highlighted the situation of ‘police volunteers’ going door-to-door in Cathays and asking students how many people live in their houses and then restating the rules of the local lockdown (which we are all fully aware of).
And while the intention of the police could be all well and good, I believe this is not how they should be conducting themselves and this behaviour is not sitting right with me for many reasons.
As students, we all know how badly we have been scape-goated during the pandemic. The Government has ignored us for 4 months only to finally @ us by blaming young people for the rise in COVID-19 cases. We have also been made to pay £9000 tution again for the pleasure of keeping our student status and the clear disrespect that comes with it. The most hilarious thing is that we all know our education was NOT worth a fraction of that amount before the pandemic, let alone now when we can’t use university resources or even have physical lectures.
That is why this police presence in Cathays is just another example of the mistreatment students are suffering. They seem to be forgetting that we are responsible adults; and while there is a minority having house parties or breaking lockdown rules, the vast majority of students act just as (if not more) responsibly than the rest of the population. We do not need to be patronised and confronted on the door steps of our own homes. It feels as if students are being criminalised; we cannot be trusted as a group of people and therefore have Big Brother watching and ready to slap us with a £10,000 fine.
PC Mike Neate tweeted that himself and the South Wales Police Volunteers were in the majority student area of Cathays to provide “crime prevention advice” and ensure “all are aware of local covid-19 guidance”.
While this is all well and good, there has been no mention of similar volunteering in more afluent areas in Cardiff, like the Bay or Pontcanna. Or is it just the students who the police are “ensuring” are aware? And while I’m at it, I’d just like to raise the possibility that if anyone in this group had coronavirus but was asymptomatic, they could well have unknowingly spread the virus around half of the student houses in Cathays. This is of course highly unlikely, but surely it is safer for them to stay home and let us take our own precautions, rather than going door to door and risking cross contamination between houses.
Another reason my blood is boiling is the complete disregard for the student’s feelings and the knock on effect this will have on mental health. The police may feel they are helping, but so many students live and struggle with anxiety on a daily basis. As we are now on lockdown away from home and not allowed to see family or friends, I don’t think I’m making too large an assumption when I say student mental health is very low currently. There needs to be consideration of how hard this situation is for us so maybe leave the intimidation tactics for the actual criminals and not the ones who just want to chill and get our degrees in peace.
There have also been stories of the police forcing their way into student homes claiming they’re “allowed to enter a household without asking” if there has been a noise complaint or they suspect mixing of households. Obviously houseparties should be broken up, but harassing normal student homes who are following the rules is completely out of order.
When asked about the police presence, a Cardiff University spokesperson said SWP have “begun their annual door-to-door Crime Prevention and Personal Safety campaign” which they state is in place “to keep the student population safe”.
However, when asked about how students could percieve this as harassment, they say they are “not responsible for policing strategy in Cathays” but are “obviously concerned to learn if our students are feeling harassed”. They direct any students struggling to speak to the university’s Support and Wellbeing services.
All I am really saying is: we are grown adults and we would like to be treated as such. So stop knocking our doors and bothering us, all we’re trying to do is online lectures and not have an emotional breakdown until lockdown is lifted. Thanks.