Police launch Operation Fortress after Hillhead break-ins

Louise Wilson

Police have cautioned students to be vigilant after a series of break-ins in the Hillhead area, launching a campaign designed to reduce the number of crimes targeted towards students.

Operation Fortress, as the campaign is to be known, began on October 1st. It will be a two month operation to increase safety and reduce the amount of break-ins in the West End. As well as extra patrols around the area, Strathclyde Police have released further advice on how best to stay safe.

Craig Angus, VP of Media and Communications in the SRC, was a victim of an attempted break-in this semester. However, as he was in his flat at the time the prospective burglar was scared away. He said: “I’ve lived in Hyndland for the past 3 years, and never came close to any trouble with break-ins or safety. In our last flat, the front door was open all year from the street, and you could get in through the back garden, and yet we never had any trouble, and never felt like trouble.”

“Having moved to Hillhead, I’ve noticed that there are significantly more people just hanging about for no apparent reason, and my nerves were heightened after a man threw a brick through our downstairs window, in an attempt to break in. Fortunately for us, two of us were in the flat upstairs. My flatmate just ran down screaming ‘What the fuck are you doing?!’ and he scarpered, but he’d come through the window – if we’d been out then we’d have lost a lot of stuff. My advice would be to lock up, invest in mini-safes if you’re going out for extended periods of time, and get insurance – without that you have nothing.”

Sergeant Ewan Logie, part of the Community Interventions Unit for Strathclyde Police, is pleased with the successes Operation Fortress has already had. He said: “We’ve had extremely good results so far, in terms of there being three arrests already.” One of these arrests has resulted in a 20 month sentence in prison, whilst the others are being remanded in custody pending trial.

Strathclyde Police believe the reason behind the high number of crimes targeted towards students is in part due to them not knowing the area very well and therefore not being aware of what is or is not suspicious. A meeting with Glasgow University security resulted in the police and the University working together to create a much safer environment for students.

The police urge students to report any activity they believe to be suspicious in their area. They have also reminded students to make sure all windows and doors are locked before leaving the house, due to the opportunistic nature of the crimes.

Jess McGrellis, VP of Student Support at the SRC, encourages students to see SRC advice pages on how best to keep items safe. She says: “It is an unfortunate truth that the majority of victims of housebreakings in the Hillhead area are students. It is a terrible crime which can leave many victims shaken and can cause great losses. The SRC have been working with the Personal Safety Co-ordinating Group to establish how we can support the police’s ‘Operation Fortress’ initiative.

There are some simple steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of being a victim of such crimes: Shut and lock your windows, even if you aren’t on the ground floor. Secure your building and never let anyone into your building unless you know them or have seen their ID. Make sure all valuables are kept out of sight and are marked, the cheapest way to do this is with a UV pen. These are just a few of the precautions you can take. For a full list contact [email protected] or check out the note on the SRC facebook page.

If you discover that your house has been broken into, call the police and do not touch anything so they can preserve any evidence. If you arrive home and discover the door open or can see that someone has forced entry, do not enter alone and phone the police.”

The University say: “Through the SRC we provide advice to students on how to keep themselves, their belongings and property safe, including highlighting the importance of locking doors and windows to prevent opportunistic thefts, as well as never leaving valuables unattended while out and about.

“To reinforce this message, and following a spate of house breakings affecting students, the University and its partners are about to launch an awareness campaign to highlight to students the importance of keeping their accommodation secure.

“However, crime levels on and around the campus remain very low and the personal safety coordinating group advises on a range of student safety and security matters.”

Sergeant Logie went on to say: “The work is never done and we’re always looking for innovative ideas to prevent crime.” The two-month operation aims towards making the area, and Glasgow in general, a much safer area long-term.

General advice and information regarding student safety can be found on the Strathclyde Police website.