‘It’s students who are targeted’: Victims of assault in St Andrews speak out
Five people have already been arrested
Hard as it might be to imagine, over the last four months all anyone can talk about on social media are the gangs of teenagers apparently targeting and attacking St Andrews students.
In October and November, four separate assaults were reported to Police. Five people, including a 14-year-old, have been arrested, and patrols around the town have been stepped up.
The St Andrews Tab has spoken to students affected by the attacks, all of whom were left badly injured and shaken by the experience.
'I didn't want to throw my life away by punching a 16-year-old in the face'
Fourth-year Shion, who was assaulted in October, told The St Andrews Tab he was "hit in the face" and "kicked in the groin" by a group after a night out. His friend also had a glass bottle smashed over his head.
Shion was worried fighting back might jeopardise his international student visa, and didn't want to risk it.
"I tried to make it very clear this isn't a fight," he told The St Andrews Tab. "'I have had a lot of support to reach this far in my degree and I couldn't face throwing this away because I punched a 16-year-old in the face."
Shion managed to speak to a police officer about the assault, and showed them the blood "all over" his hand and mouth. He was then told that they would be unable to take a statement because they were policing Opening Ball. When asked by The St Andrews Tab about this, Police Scotland said they were too busy to respond due to "overwhelming demand."
He told the St Andrews Tab "enough time has passed where what happened to me personally is just a bit of a laugh" and puts the incident down to "just bad luck."
'We may live in a small and safe town, but it's not free of danger'
Another student claimed in a Facebook group he was attacked by "around" nine young people.
The student also posted a picture of his injuries, which included a split and bruised lip.
In a warning to students, he said: "The point is this – we may live in a small and very safe town, but it's not free of danger and I'd like to spread awareness in case it gets worse."
'They tackled me and bent me over a wall'
A final-year student told The St Andrews Tab he was attacked by three people on his way home from the library after he refused to give them cash.
"They tackled me and bent me over into a wall", he said. "Then they started setting on me. Two were kicking my legs and back and the other was punching my head."
He said the group left when a taxi driver intervened. The final year said the attack left him with "quite a lot of bruising" on his legs and back, as well as a sprained ankle.
The student said the attacks aren't "necessarily about money," adding: "It’s students who are targeted."
The final-year told The St Andrews Tab he will be more cautious and admitted he won't walk home alone at night anymore.
Even though he had nothing stolen, he said the assaults "still take stuff away."
Police told the student he was "the third person to have called in a civil incident."
'We've been making sure our doors are locked more'
A second-year student told The St Andrews Tab the assaults would make her "think twice about reapplying to St Andrews."
"We’ve been making sure our doors are locked more," she said. "It’s those things, like little feelings of uneasiness."
A spokesperson for Police Scotland said: "Understandably, these incidents have caused concern among the student population and we want to ensure that students in St Andrews continue to feel safe.
"St Andrews has always felt like the safest place in the world but in that moment it was not."
We contacted Police Scotland about these assaults. They replied with the following statement:
Sergeant Matt Spencer, of the Community Policing team in St Andrews, said: "Thankfully nobody has been seriously injured in any of these incidents but understandably they have caused concern among the student population.
"We want to ensure students in St Andrews continue to feel safe while they live and study in the town. We are liaising with a number of partners, including the university, student association and local elected members.
"Students should be able to go about their lives without any fear of crime but I would urge people to be vigilant.
"Anyone who has any concerns can contact police by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency. Students can also seek advice from appropriate services at the university
"As a result of these incidents, which will not be tolerated by the police, we have increased patrols in key areas and have drawn on additional resources from outwith the area to ensure a visible police presence. We are grateful for the support of the local community while we carry out this work."
"As these cases are live there is almost nothing we can say, as to do so would risk the prosecutions."
If you feel unsafe or at risk of assault, call the Police on 999 for an emergency of 101 for non-emergency enquiries.
There are also regular Nightbus services that can be accessed throughout town, details can be found here.