Police are warning of the dangers of a craze called ‘urban exploring’ after a huge emergency operation was launched in Northampton to rescue three boys from the town’s sewer system.
Urban exploring, sometimes called urbex, is the exploration and scaling of man-made structures, usually abandoned buildings, often with the aim of photographing them.
The growth of urban exploring on social media and an increase in people seeking out dangerous or exposed locations to film or pose in have led to concerns that young people could be injured or killed trying to emulate what they’ve seen online.
Advice for parents:
Parents are being encouraged to talk to children and young people about the dangers of entering or climbing buildings and structures.
In Northamptonshire, work is underway among partners including the police, fire service, and local councils to educate people about the risks of this kind of activity, as well as identifying site owners and getting them to improve security and safety.
Sergeant Neil Goosey, of Northamptonshire Police’s crime prevention team, said: “There tend to be two groups of urban explorers – people who try to do it in an organised way with safety in mind, and young people who are ill-prepared and ill-skilled, who put themselves and others at risk to climb buildings, as well as causing damage to property.
“We’ve had incidents of people climbing tall buildings, accessing dangerous roofs and even throwing things off, so they are not only risking their own lives but those of people passing by.
“We’re asking parents and carers to talk to young people about the dangers of this kind of activity, so they understand how something they may see as exciting and fun is actually dangerous and possibly also criminal behaviour.”
Is Urban Exploring illegal?
While trespass is generally a civil matter, criminal charges of causing alarm and distress can be made against those climbing structures if they cause onlookers to fear they may fall. Damage caused by a trespasser may be considered a criminal offence.
Criminal behaviour orders can also be made prohibiting activities such as the climbing of man-made structures or accessing specific sites.
Sgt Goosey said: “If the worst did happen and someone was injured at a derelict site, then getting help to them could also be very difficult.
“We want to educate rather than enforce. If we can prevent this kind of activity from taking place we’re removing risk and preventing criminal behaviour, helping keep everyone safer.”
Councillor Anna King, Northampton Borough Council’s Cabinet member for community safety and engagement, added: “This activity is extremely dangerous and it’s only a matter of time before someone is injured or killed in Northampton.
“We’ve seen an increase in the number of these incidents and it is clear the young people involved don’t fully recognise the risks. We have been working with partners to introduce deterrents and are looking at the use of CCTV to identify the youngsters involved.
“However, we know that this alone won’t stop urban exploring and we encourage parents, carers and schools to help us with our educational activity so that we can prevent this risky behaviour and keep our town safe.”