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*HER CAMPUS EXCLUSIVE* – The ‘Fashion’ of YSL…and Balaclavas

Now I know what you’re thinking, that this is going to be an exposé on all my favourite Yves Sainte Laurent products; the bag du jour, classic black Palais shoes, golden gloss in assorted colours and don’t even get me started on their mascara selection. But my loan won’t cover all of that so we will have to go for the more student acceptable definition of YSL: ‘You Sad Losers.’ This rebranding of one of fashion’s most notorious labels plays reference to the balaclava clad ‘gang’ who are striking up fear on the streets of Leeds. The media has reported exaggerated facts that are hyping up the situation and leaving a wave of fear in their wake. Today, we are exposing the truth. But whether there has been one attack or fifty, there is something that cannot be ignored; ‘You Sad Losers’ are now targeting girls and we must all take precautions to stay safe.

On Wednesday 23rd of November, there were eight muggings in ten minutes in student areas in Leeds. Of the eight, I know two of the victims. ‘V1’ was leaving a friends’ house to go home; a 107m distance, that is a two-minute walk -  she lived one road away. Her mobile rang; she muted it. Four darkly dressed boys came up behind her and snatched the phone out of her hand; they told her to give them her purse and then, after stealing her handbag, one of ‘You Sad Losers’ grabbed her hair and pulled her down to the floor. Some boys from across the road heard the commotion and hurried to try and help my friend. But the ‘gang’ saw them coming and chased them up the street, knives in hand. When they approached the junction, they were ambushed by 10 more gang members, all brandishing knives, and the chase continued.

‘V2’ was going into his house, one road down from where ‘V1’ was mugged, when 10 boys with their faces covered threatened him with a knife for his wallet. Contents from ‘V1’s’ handbag and her purse were found in the woods and the police dogs traced the scent of the offenders all the way back to the Waitrose supermarket in Meanwood. This coincides with rumours from sources that this ‘gang’ are locals from Meanwood. But other than this, we know nothing of their identity. Who are ‘You Sad Losers?’

Only the naïve will believe that these muggers are targeting people who are walking alone. Bonfire night saw the commencement of this petty criminal activity with a reported 10 attacks. One of these was a group of four girls. I met with two of the girls who shared their story:

“We had been to the fireworks and were going to a friends’ house behind the Hyde Park Pub at some time between 10pm and 10:30pm; we had to walk through a grassy area to get there. There was a bit of the path that was shadowed and as we got half way across, we saw about 20 boys, some of them on bikes. They were all wearing matching black outfits, including balaclavas and gloves. We tried to walk past and ignore them. A short one asked ‘where’s the party at girls?’

“I told them that there wasn’t a party. Then he started getting aggressive; ‘what’s the attitude for?’ We carried on walking, they followed and we when we were nearly at our friends’ house we stopped so that they wouldn’t follow us in. They were still shouting, and the short guy ran up to us, repeating his question: ‘what’s the attitude for?’ He was right up in my face, so close he might as well have been touching me. He must have been about 17 years old. I was trying to be confident but I knew he was serious. He pointed at each of us in turn and said, “I want your phone, your phone, your phone and your phone”. By this time the rest of the ‘gang’ had surrounded us; they were everywhere.

“The little one kept shouting but I told him ‘NO,’ - they couldn’t have our phones. His response? ‘If you don’t, I’m gonna batter you.’ Then they all put their hands under their jumpers, like they had something hidden there. But one of the bigger boys said, “Leave it” – he must have been the leader. The little one got annoyed; he didn’t want to go. As they turned around to leave, they laughed and called out to us ‘if you call the police there will be trouble; we know where you live.’ We all ran to the nearest house and they watched us. When they left, we came out and went to our friends’ house to call the police. The house we first ran to got robbed a few days later. 

In this case, the victims used the tactic that the best defence is confidence. As with all predators, they prey on the weak. I would not try this myself but I would be glad if it did manage to prevent an attack.

I refer to this ‘gang’ as boys and not men because a man is a boy with some sort of moral integrity. In one instance, these boys stole a phone, a purse and a bag: after getting their ‘great haul’ they then degraded a girl by committing assault. These cowardly acts suggest that ‘You Sadistic Losers’ actually take pleasure and find an element of fun in pulling a girl by her hair… or leaving one with severe facial injuries, as was the case in mid-November. Grow up. And you, Mr Short; congratulations, you are such a ‘big man’. How proud your mother must be.You don’t belong in any society, let alone ours. Get off the streets and get a job and if that seems too difficult, we have a cell waiting. And in prison, they don’t like boys who touch women; they’ll make sure only men touch you for the remainder of your sentence.

We need more police in Hyde Park and especially Woodhouse. There has been an increase in police presence in the City Centre and by university halls of residences, but in the eyes of the students there has been little evidence of progress. In our eyes progress means arrests. In the third week of November, the police arrested a 17 year old who has been charged with 2 assaults. They also arrested a 21 year old in connection with the same robberies. That is 2 out of a definite 20 and who knows how many more. The thing is, we cannot depend on the police to stop this and must take charge of the situation to lower the probability of becoming a victim.

It is time to rid our lives of this fashion faux pas, because black balaclavas are not a symbol of the Leeds we know and love. A big group of girls in one of the student areas have set up a system, whereby they each have a personal burglar alarm. If one of the girls is in trouble and sets off her alarm, the chances are that one of the members of the system will hear. Imagine if your best friend had an alarm and could be the one getting hurt. A member, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that if you hear an alarm ringing, you go to the window and check it out. YOU DO NOT GO OUTSIDE. If you spot the source of the noise from the window and someone is getting attackedthen call the police immediately. Alarms may not work as protection, but they will alert someone to your presence.

As long as these ‘gangs’ are around, the probability is that anyone can be a victim. We must be smart, be sensible and above all be safe. Avoid walking in the dark if you can. Even if you are with someone, the streets are still the friends of thieves. The ‘one second’ walk to the house next door may be the last time you leave the house with your face intact, or your ribs intact, or conscious. We need to be careful on the weekends especially, because if ‘You Sad Losers’ are kids, then the weekend is their recess…I guess that is when their so-called “parents” lift their curfew; all I hope is that they are ignorant to this disgusting behaviour or else what would that say about them? I would like to see which of their parents still have jobs when all the students are chased out of Leeds, and how they will all turn on each other when they have to start mugging other locals for their bread.

My advice to students: share your alcohol, save some money and get yourselves an Amber Cab.
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