How DC and UOIT protect their students

There are a lot of things at play to keep the DC and UOIT campus safe.  There is everything from security guards to code blue stations to medical emergency teams to protect students.

With a population of about 20,000 students, DC and UOIT have non-sworn security guards that are hired and licensed under the security guard provincial statutes. The guards perform duties on the behalf of the Office of Campus Security (OCS) on or in relation to DC and UOIT property. Most of them are Police Foundations students, according to administrator of security services John Neil, but he says anyone can become a guard.

Their general duty is to observe and report, but they are trained and qualified in law. So even if they cannot perform the same duties as police officers, they can write tickets for parking in fire-routes and unlawful parking.

According to director of campus safety Tom Lynch, guards have a notebook, a pen, and handcuffs.  They cannot use force except for “soft verbal commands” and handcuffing an individual under certain legal circumstances.

Any disturbance on campus requires the guards to watch, take notes, ask the person to identify themselves, and to cease and desist.

If the person refuses, a manager of public safety is contacted. The person might then be asked to leave the property. If they still refuse, they can be arrested by a guard. Police are then called to investigate and either complete the arrest or release the individual.

If security receive information about a serious threat, such as a firearm, Durham Regional Police are contacted immediately.

Campus properties include the main buildings, sidewalks, parking lots, and the footpath down by the forest.

Lynch says it is necessary to have sworn constables replace security guards.

“I really don’t think that this college community presents itself as a community that needs to be policed by police officers,” he said.

He says students get up to mischief occasionally and that should not always be met with the formal attitude of real police.

“I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t mischief,” he said. “If we look at the path through university or college life as being train tracks, you know every now and then that train might slip off the tracks a little bit. And what our focus should be is the teachable moment.”

DC and UOIT campuses are kept secure through several security mechanisms located indoors and outdoors.  CCTV cameras monitor the campus 24-7.

Code blue stations, which are tested monthly, can be found outdoors. They are emergency red poles with a blue light and a button that contacts the security desk.

Campus Security also does vehicle patrols and random foot patrols of the premises.

A Campus Walk service is available for students 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This gives students an escort to walk them to their car or bus.

The campus also has CIRENS, a mass emergency communication tool which notifies students and staff in the case of an emergency.

The Student Association provides CERT, a team of trained students who respond to medical emergencies.

LEAA, a lockdown alarm that can only be heard outside the campus, was integrated by Lynch last fall.

Security guard training is also updated every year to meet the changing industry, according to Neil.

Campus Security also receives information from its peers in colleges and universities across the province. The directors of campus security inform each other of the loopholes in their security systems that had to be fixed to prevent incidents. Security guards are then alerted through advisories if they need to be on the lookout.

Neil has been on campus since 2005. He started as a security guard and worked his way up to becoming a supervisor and now the manager. He is part of Paragon Security, which employs the security guards. He has not once doubted the security of UOIT and DC.

“[I am] 100 per cent confident from the time I started ‘til now,” said Neil.

Lynch, however, says some of the buildings need improvement.

“One of the challenges that we have as a security infrastructure is the age of our buildings,” he said.

Methods to prevent crime such as building set-up, lighting, locking mechanisms, and camera placements were not available in 1967 when Durham College was built. It is very difficult and expensive, Lynch says, to integrate such mechanisms into already existing buildings.

However, Lynch says the Office of Campus safety will be involved in designing future buildings, such as the new Simcoe Building, to integrate such mechanisms and make the buildings both functional and safe.