THE start of the new university term in Oxford brings with it a new wave of young adults often looking for three years of fun as much as education.

As Oxford Brookes University’s annual Freshers’ Week commenced with its usual festivities, so did Thames Valley Police’s (TVP’s) initiative for Alcohol Harm Reduction Week.

Working in conjunction with street pastors, Samaritans, the Lifeline Project charity and rehab charity Oasis Partnership, TVP hit the streets to get the message across first-hand to Friday-night revellers.

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The aim is to keep students who have left home for the first time, as well as members of the public, safe from alcohol-related crime.

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Extra police patrolled the bustling and busy streets around the city centre, and handed out leaflets with advice to passers-by.

From 9pm to 11pm, TVP and the other organisations manned a stall in Cornmarket Street, telling people about how they can keep themselves safe on nights out.

Officers handed out bells, which attach to handbags to alert the owner if someone is trying to open it, and leaflets about keeping property safe.

Insp Andy Thompson, neighbourhood inspector for the city centre, central and north Oxford, who led the event, said this was the first time the force had held one in two years.

He said: “Oxford is a vibrant and diverse city with a night-time economy to match.

“The police, partners and licensed premises are working together to ensure everyone can enjoy a safe night out.

“Most people are fairly well behaved but it is just that drinking can make them vulnerable to being a victim of crime.

“We are just here to help reassure the public.”

Officers also patrolled Queen Street, Cornmarket and George Street – the busiest areas for Oxford’s night-time economy from 9pm to 11pm.

Among those on the streets were Pcs Rob Parker and Dawn Evans, who were in the area from 8pm until 5am, working together with door staff of busy venues to keep the peace.

During Friday’s two-hour patrol the officers spoke to a number of beggars sitting on the street.

Crouching down next to a man sitting on the corner of Queen Street, Pc Parker took his details and asked him if he needed help or somewhere to stay.

It turned out he had a flat in Oxford.

Pc Evans, 39, who has been with TVP for 13 years, said: “A lot of them come here, even if they have no connection to Oxford, because they know the students will give them a lot of money.”

The police’s main aim is to get homeless people help rather than just move them on.

She added: “I do feel sorry for them, sometimes I just want to take them home with me.”

The Oxford Mail also saw police respond to a shoplifting incident in Tesco, in Magdalen Street, where a £5 bottle of wine was stolen, but then smashed on the floor before it could be taken from the premises.

No-one was charged, said Pc Parker, because the store deals with minor incidents itself, although police did initially attend the scene.

At around 11pm, as the police took down their stall, and the streets grew steadily busier, the street pastors arrived to help TVP with their evening’s activities.

Pastors David Bull, Alice Lawhead and Tony Brett assist with non-serious incidents, freeing up the police to be in other areas of the city between 10.30pm and 4am.

Mrs Lawhead, from St Mary’s Church in Iffley Road, Oxford, said: “In our bags we carry flip-flops, lollipops and sweets and blankets.

“We look for people who have been separated from their friends, people who have had a little bit too much fun, and we help them get home.”

The pastors hand out sweets to keep people’s blood sugar levels up to stop them getting rowdy at the end of the night and flip-flops are offered to girls who have taken off their high heels and are walking barefoot.

The blankets are used to keep severely intoxicated people warm.

David Berrini, from the Lifeline Project, said the charity team had spoken to “about 100 people, mostly students” about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

“It has been a really good evening, we have been really busy,” he said.

At the end of the Oxford Mail’s stint, Mr Thompson said he thought the evening had been a success and he hoped to hold the event more regularly throughout the year.

This year’s Freshers’ Week, from September 15-21, saw 21 incidents reported to police compared to 32 in the same period last year – down 44 per cent.

Another event will take place when Oxford University Freshers’ Week takes place in the first week of October.


  • Always go out with friends and remain together.
  • Ensure you are not drinking excessive amounts, know your limits, and know what you are drinking.
  • Keep sight of your drink at all times.
  • Keep your personal property, such as phones and wallets, close to you and secure.
  • Approach police or pub/club staff if you find yourself in a vulnerable situation.
  • Know how you are getting home.

It’s a busy night’s work

Oxford Mail:

PROBLEM: Pc Rob Parker talks to a beggar

  • Incidents reported on Friday, September 19, around the city centre:
  • Two reports of fights that were attended by TVP officers. No offences were confirmed
  • A fear-for-welfare report of a passed-out male where police and ambulance crews attended
  • A report of a rape in Brewer Street. Under investigation
  • Four notices were served on individuals to leave the area to prevent alcohol-related antisocial behaviour
  • As part of the Alcohol Harm Reduction Week on Friday night/Saturday morning there were four arrests: Two for possession of drugs; One for being drunk and disorderly; One for a domestic assault

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