Design key to safety, says new co-ordinator

by Hilary Thomson
Staff writer

UBC's new personal security co-ordinator Paul Wong is a criminologist with a flair for design.

Whether it's a parkade or a university residence, Wong can tell you if the design of the environment reduces the opportunity for crime.

"Understanding how the building or space is used is the first step," says Wong who works for the Dept. of Health, Safety and the Environment.

Key to improving security, says Wong, is exterior design, such as the position of stairwells and windows, lighting, landscaping and controlling growth of bushes and trees to improve sightlines.

Wong has conducted safety audits and evaluated the design of several educational institutions, including Kwantlen and Douglas colleges, the Justice Institute and Simon Fraser University.

But physical design is just one of the tools to determine risk, he says.

Wong also uses monthly security and RCMP incident reports, safety surveys and audits. In the most recent audit, the Alma Mater Society (AMS) had student volunteers assess nighttime security at various campus locations.

Increasing the involvement of the campus community in diagnosing problems is one of Wong's goals.

As co-ordinator, he works closely with the Personal Security Advisory Committee (PSAC), whose representatives include the Women Students' Office, the Equity Office and Parking and Transportation/Campus Security. Wong also talks with Campus Planning and Development, students, the AMS, staff and the RCMP.

"It's a question of pooling information and staying in touch with concerns," he says. "I need input from the people that use the facility."

Wong also resolves individual complaints and concerns.

"Sometimes there is fear of crime even though incident reports for the area show a low risk," Wong says. "I follow up on those concerns because the perception of safety is as important as the actual risk. Helping people feel secure is our goal."

Wong encourages individuals to become familiar with personal security resources such as the AMS Safewalk program, the security bus and the blue-light emergency phones.

Specific concerns or questions can be directed to him by e-mail to