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September 21, 2009 | by  | in News |
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Growing concern over student safety

Make mine a water and call me a taxi, babe.

With a spring of violent attacks around the Wellington region, student safety is quickly becoming a top priority.

Within the last month, a young female has been sexually assaulted and several youths have found themselves beaten and robbed on city streets. The recent spout of attacks has targeted intoxicated young people who are by themselves on city streets.

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Students in town have a range of sources to tap into in order to keep themselves safe. Bars around the city take responsibility as hosts when serving patrons. Salient spoke to Jonno Huntington, owner of The Big Kumara, a popular bar among Wellington students.

“Host responsibility is an issue we take quite seriously here,” said Huntington, “For us the responsibility ends when the person reaches home safely.”

Measures are put in place to ensure that no one is drinking to excess in the bar.

“We encourage people to eat food and we don’t charge for water. It’s little things like this, offering food and free water that we don’t have a problem with. If it’s keeping people safe, we’ll keep doing it.”

Since becoming the owner of The Big Kumara in January 2009, there have been no incidents of violence or assaults within the bar.

Regarding the double standards in drinking between men and women, Huntington believes that while there is a focus on youth and female drinking, there is more than meets the eye with the current situation.

“It’s purely methodological. For example, men will drink beer while women ask for spirits,” Huntington told Salient, “It’s not the drinking, it’s how they’re drinking, and there’s a big difference between the sexes.”

With the spotlight securely on the youth and female drinkers, Huntington notes that recent articles presented the cold, hard facts.

“The truth is, young people and women are drinking to excess, they arrive intoxicated in town and can’t get into bars. This leaves them on the streets where they get into trouble.”

Community Constable Rachel Shore spoke with Salient regarding the portrayal of young drinkers in the media.

“There has been a steady increase in the amount of alcohol being consumed by young people aged from 18 to 25. Also, anecdotally, Police and A&E do notice an increase or decrease in arrests and hospital admissions depending on the student calendar.”

Police are often seen patrolling the inner city during busy nights, some areas more than others.

“One of these areas is the Blair Street and Courtenay Place intersection, where violence can occur,” Shore told Salient, “Police have been working together with the Wellington City Council and the lighting has been improved which has resulted in the street not being as troublesome as in the past.”

Community Constable Rachel Shore argues that there needs to be more focus on the safety of young people in the city.

Campaigns such as ‘Safe in the City’ target females in particular, urging young women to have a plan in place when in town. ‘Safe in the City’ draws attention to details such as making better use of Wellington’s taxi services while promoting the notion of ‘safety in numbers’.

The campaign appeals to young women, showing that while there is still fun to be had in town, the safety and wellbeing of young people should come first.

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  1. Jean Hansman says:

    I am glad to see that measures are being looked at to keep our young people
    safe. Safety in numbers, and responsible measures to ensure youth arent
    left intoxicated on the streets, providing transport home or shelter the best
    safety measures.(if you are too intoxicated to be allowed in a bar, or too
    intoxicated to be allowed to remain on the premises – you are too intoxicated
    to be left on the street)

    If off-licences could work in with some service provider to ensure transport
    for youth in conjunction with police it would be one more positive step.
    There needs to be some service set up and free phone no to provide
    help/transport

    Great to see this student magazine keeping in touch with these concerns.

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