This week we meet Sophie Bimson, Crime Prevention and Personal Safety Advisor, who chats to us about setting up the Student Safety Champion Programme at UCL - which recently won a prestigious award for exceptional contribution to the UK Security Sector!
What is your role and what does it involve?My role involves supporting students and staff who have experienced a crime or personal safety issue - from feeling unsafe on a walk home, to supporting members of our community from initial report of a serious crime right through to Court trials. The other aspect of my role is to raise awareness of crime trends affecting our community, so we can prevent our students and staff from becoming victims of crime. I love the variety of my role - there is never a dull moment, especially after returning from maternity leave for a year! We are currently rolling out our new safety app called SafeZone so students and staff can contact Security 24/7 for help at the push of a button.. please get downloading (yes, this is a shameless plug - find out how to download below!).
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?I have been at UCL since September 2019. I started my first week by delivering safety talks to thousands of students at the International Students Orientation Programme (ISOP) - talk about intense! Previously I worked in the Police for six years as a Police Officer and T/DC, then worked in Local Authority and the Crown Prosecution Service in an engagement capacity specialising in hate crime and violence against women and girls.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?I am most proud of the initiative I set up when I first started at UCL - the Student Safety Champion Programme. In my interview, I told my manager that I wanted to create opportunities to involve students in peer-to-peer engagement to distribute crime prevention messages, and I set about doing that straight away. With the help and support of Amy Thornton, Director of Studies in the Security and Crime Science Department, we recruited a group of students and invited Police colleagues to review crime data and discuss solutions to ongoing problems. The group has generated some excellent social media content, designed bike seat covers with crime prevention messages and have assisted designing a suite of stickers to prevent distraction phone thefts, tailgating and other common crimes on campus.. They are absolute superstars! The project just won the prestigious national Security Commonwealth Dave Clark Award for 2022 for ’Exceptional Contribution to the UK Security Sector’.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?My top priority at the moment is tackling violence against women and girls. This is an ongoing issue so I am focused on creating a toolkit that looks to establish engagement opportunities to find out what issues impact our community, promote behaviour change and address vulnerability around women’s safety at night. I have been working with the Student Safety Champions, Students’ Union and Safer Business Network to bring together this work. If effective, initially we might see cases of sexual harassment and assault rise where reporting mechanisms are utilised, but hopefully over time we will see this awareness work come into effect and for cases to start falling. This would be an incredible achievement.
What is your favourite album, film and book?
- Album: Tango in the Night by Fleetwood Mac.
- Film: Bridesmaids.
- Book: Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?Why can’t you explain puns to kleptomaniacs?
They always take things literally.
Who would be your dream dinner guests?My husband, Katherine Ryan, James Acaster (poppadoms or bread’!), Nish Kumar, Joe Lycett and maybe Ottolenghi to cook for us.
What advice would you give your younger self?Take time to celebrate success, even the small wins.. and be kind to yourself.
What would it surprise people to know about you?I started horseriding before I could walk! When I was 14 I was in the under 16s British potential championship squad in Dressage. It was my whole life growing up. Turning out to compete in all kinds of weather was a lesson in resilience!
What is your favourite place?I have been lucky enough to travel a lot, and I’ve been to some beautiful parts of the world.
Bali and Zanzibar were incredible places to visit.. but (as soppy as it sounds) my favourite place is with my family and I’m excited for all the adventures we have together in 2023.
- University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT (0) 20 7679 2000