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Town celebrates zero assaults on overseas students

A LIAISON group made up of Kent Police, language schools and Shepway Council to prepare for the arrival of overseas students in Folkestone is celebrating its most successful year ever, with no reported assaults.

The Shepway Overseas Liaison Group (SOLG) was set up in 1997 as a forum for organisations involved in the annual visit by hundreds of overseas students.

It meets throughout the year to discuss issues and problems and to ensure their visits are safe and successful.

Several years ago, South East Kent Police adopted Operation Columbus, a national initiative set up specifically to address the unique situation faced by towns like Folkestone that play host to overseas students every summer.

The number of incidents involving overseas students has fallen consistently over the years. This year, for the first year there have been no reported assaults on overseas students.

Under operation Colombus, a number of "Safe Havens" were established in the town centre, located mainly in retail outlets to provide a safe place for the youngsters to seek help if they experience problems.

English language school tutors also provided information to the students regarding safety, British customs, the law relating to young people, alcohol consumption and tobacco purchases.

Operators at the Kent Police control room were briefed about Operation Columbus to advise students about safe havens and other safety issues.

PC Phil Harvey-Hendley, a member of SOLG, said: “We are very pleased with the results from this year. By working together and putting measures in place to help prevent and deter crimes has helped us to ensure a successful season.”

Chair of SOLG, Simon Himbury, from Eversley College in Folkestone, said: “We are very pleased to see that the number of crimes in general, and those involving overseas students have fallen so significantly and believe it is a credit to all those people involved.”

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