05/01/2019 14:54 GMT

Universities Are Paying Police To Protect Students Amid Fears Over Crime

As one university aims to have a "drug-free" campus by next year.

Northampton University's police force will cost the institution three-quarters of a million, according to new figures.

More than two dozen universities are paying police to protect their students amid fears they may be easy targets for criminals and while residents endure cuts to neighbourhood patrols.

Dedicated officers are among the measures deployed to prevent campuses being attractive to thieves and drug dealers, according to a Freedom of Information request by The Times.

More than £2 million has been paid out to 17 police forces over the past three years by 27 universities, and at least £1.2 million is set to be spent in this academic year, The Times reported.

Northampton University has earmarked £775,000 to fund the measures over the next three years – enough to pay for one sergeant and five constables.

Sheffield, Durham and Liverpool are among the campuses taking part in the project, where universities can ensure they keep a team of dedicated officers at a time when the numbers of regular neighbourhood patrols have fallen, according to The Times data.

Police budgets have reportedly decreased by 19% since 2010 and the overall number of officers has fallen by around 20,000 over the same period.

Densely-packed campuses containing valuable equipment including computers, laptops and mobile phones can be a target for thieves, and drug dealers have been reported on campuses and in other student areas.

A Northampton University spokesman told The Times that it signed up “at a time when central funding to officers is reducing”, adding they wanted to support the police in town “rather than stretch it further”.

The University of Buckingham is not among those who pay for campus police but it does request officers and sniffer dogs visit to look for drugs.

It hopes to deter students from wanting to take drugs and highlight a more healthy drugs-free life – potentially improving their mental health.

Buckingham’s vice-chancellor, Sir Anthony Seldon, said: “We also offer advice to help improve mental health. To act as a deterrent, however, we invite police and sniffer dogs onto campus. Our students are involved in formulating our drugs policy and work with us to implement it.

“Universities must put far more resources into preventing students taking drugs in the first place, rather than paying a fortune on mental health services to pick up the bits, or on policing to keep drug-pushers away from students.”

The university aims, with student involvement, to have a drug-free campus by 2020.