Local police and bars have responded to social media reports of drink spiking in Falmouth as students prepare to boycott venues.
Students at Falmouth University and the University of Exeter’s Cornwall campuses have formed Girls Night In Cornwall, which is organising a boycott of Falmouth clubs on Wednesday, 27 October in response to “multiple and recent cases of spiking”.
The group has asked venues to do more to prevent spiking and support victims.
Devon and Cornwall Police has confirmed that there were three cases of reported drink spiking in Falmouth in the seven weeks since the start of September, all “outside of the forensic window for testing”.
One of the reports is still being investigated using CCTV, and none of them involved the injection of drugs.
Devon and Cornwall Police Licensing Officer Susanne Edwards told the Anchor that, despite numerous tests, there had been no positive results for drink spiking in Falmouth from urine testing kits, which have been supplied to local police officers and Penryn Campus security.
She expressed concern over social media allegations which have not been reported to police causing students to feel unsafe going out despite there being no confirmed spiking incidents.
The Anchor spoke to students who believed that they had been spiked in Falmouth but did not report the incident.
A third-year Exeter student believed that she had been spiked while out with her boyfriend. She said that she had only had two drinks but began to feel unwell and quickly “slumped over” and became “unresponsive”. She described feeling “really hot” and “shaking”.
She added: “I blacked out—I don’t remember anything that happened. I just dread to think what would have happened to me if I hadn’t have been with somebody.” After making it home, she said that she “passed out”, feeling “really awful” the next day—“like a hangover but 100 times worse”.
She felt that she could not report the incident because she “had no proof”, adding that she should not have to worry about watching her drink, and the experience had made her “incredibly nervous to go out”.
A third-year Falmouth student believed that he was spiked after leaving his drink on a table before going to the toilet, which he acknowledged was “stupid” to do. After coming back and finishing it, he began to feel unwell and “on something”, differentiating it from his experiences of drinking too much before.
He said that he had “next to no memory” of the rest of the night and was “completely incoherent”, wandering off for several hours and leading his friends to call the police to find him. Thankful that he slept on his side, he described throwing up in his sleep and waking up, still feeling “awful”, covered in vomit the next day.
Although he “didn’t think to” report it, assuming that it was a one-off incident, he regretted not doing so. He added that the universities would not be able to do much to prevent spiking unless it was happening on campus.
In response to these allegations and others on social media, police said that students should look after their drinks and not accept alcohol from strangers, and any student who believes that they have been spiked should report the incident as soon as possible, with urine tests within the first 12 to 72 hours being the most likely to detect drugs.
Most of the bigger bars in Falmouth have received training and drink testing kits, including Mangos and Games Room, which spoke to the Anchor about their responses to students’ concerns.
Mangos said that it was aware of recent social media allegations and taking all reports of spiking seriously.
It added: “All our staff are fully trained, and our door staff work with the town marshals to try and keep everyone safe.”
The club said that it had been in “weekly communication” with Devon and Cornwall Police and “following all recommendations”.
Games Room said: “Our bar staff will be on hand to help any customer who may think their drink may have been spiked and will be able to test on the spot. If the drink is found to contain a dangerous substance, the customer will be taken to a safe place, and the police will be called, who will then secure further samples and evidence to help combat this issue.”
It said that it welcomed Devon and Cornwall Police’s #SpikeAware campaign, which started in 2019 and includes placing posters and stickers in venues and encouraging anyone with concerns to contact staff, adding: “Customer safety and welfare within Falmouth remains our priority.”
Police have announced that, since supplying Falmouth venues with testing equipment and carrying out numerous drink tests and six urine tests, all of the results were negative.
Devon and Cornwall Police, Falmouth University, the University of Exeter, and Falmouth & Exeter Students’ Union have issued a joint statement to students, saying: “We are aware of and concerned about the reports of incidents of alleged spiking, either in drinks or by physical means, both locally and across the country.
“Drink spiking is a crime, and where alleged incidents are flagged to the police or to the university, these will be treated extremely seriously.
“No one should feel unsafe when enjoying a night out or be subjected to any action that places them at personal risk. Devon and Cornwall Police, local licensed premises and the universities are working together to reinforce safety measures and schemes across the local area and to ensure that the concerns within our student community are heard.
“Falmouth and Penryn are very safe places to live, including for those who enjoy its various venues, bars and clubs. Reported incidents of spiking are low, not just locally but also across Devon and Cornwall. However, even one such incident is one too many.”
It added: “Devon and Cornwall Police are encouraging anyone who believes they have experienced, or witnessed, an incident of this nature to contact them immediately so that they can investigate without delay. The universities will provide all the necessary support for anyone who has been affected, via our student support service.”
Free personal alarms and drink spiking kits are available from Glasney Lodge, the Compass helpdesk, SU office, security, and Stannary Bar. Additionally, the SafeZone app allows students to signal emergencies and share their location on campus to relevant staff.