Whether they are going to university for the first time, or returning to study for another year, students will often find themselves in new accommodation – from halls of residence to private rented flats or houses.

Students are one of the highest at-risk groups of crime in the country, often targeted for high value laptops, TVs, and entertainment equipment which are frequently left in plain view and unsecured against intruders. It’s important, therefore, that students are aware of how to keep themselves and their possessions safe.

Safety and security should be top of the agenda for students when they move into a new property, or return to their old digs, as dealing with the effects of crime is a very unsettling and distressing experience. By carrying out these simple measures to maintain a safe and secure property, we can put students’ (and parents’) minds at ease.

It is all too easy to assume that previous residents have handed in their keys and while this may well be the case, it does not mean that extra copies have not been made by either former residents, employees, contractors or even rogue tradesmen. It is important for students and parents to question what locking systems are in place, when they were last replaced and how the copying of keys is controlled.

It is landlord’s’ duty to act in a responsible manner and they should install quality locks with patented keys which cannot be copied without proof of ownership or restricted keys which cannot be easily copied due to their unique design.

Advice for students in halls of residence:

Request information on the locking systems and how key duplication is regulated, recorded and controlled.

Consider taking full details of any valuables and for electronic items, make a note of the serial number and consider ‘identity marking’ them

Be aware also of any ‘tailgating’ where people can enter a front door with or immediately after you.

Advice for students in private rented accommodation:

Ensure good quality locks are on both the main door to the property and the bedroom door.

Walk around the exterior of the property making sure to note any areas of potential weakness and discuss any issues with a landlord

Inspect doors and windows to make sure appropriate locks are fitted, are in good condition and meet insurance requirements. They can ask a vetted MLA locksmith for advice if they are unsure.

Be sure to keep valuable items out of sight, away from doors or windows, and remember to lock rooms whenever they’re not in.

Avoid the temptation to hide a key under the doormat or flower pot, criminals are very aware of the method, particularly in student areas and will often check in the first instance, giving them unrestricted access to students’ property and possessions.

Ensure the property is in line with Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) regulations which apply to homes with at least three tenants who share the toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities.

It’s tempting to leave doors open when relaxing in the sun and friends are going in and out of the property – and it’s all too easy for a thief to take advantage of the situation. A large proportion of student theft is down to ‘walk in’; gaining access through open doors so students should be vigilant and not forget that simply closing a door doesn’t necessarily mean it’s locked!

If a room or shared house is going to be left unoccupied for a number of weeks, students should make sure that all valuables are either removed from the property or taken out of view. If they have a trusted family member or friend who can check on the property whilst they’re away, leave a key with them

Written By Dr Steffan George, development director at the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA)