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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 9 | July 4, 2002

An Alarming Issue for Campus Patrol

False alarms are the most common call for security force.

By Helen Lewis

Ask around at UBC Campus Security, and they'll tell you about the time a prankster released a crate of chickens into Brock Hall, sparking a diseased-poultry scare and a two-hour round-up of the panicked birds.

Or the night a bunch of misguided adventurers were caught climbing the Chan Centre, using only ropes and the light of the moon. They might even tell you the tale of poor King George and his missing sword (see sidebar).

Campus Security receives about 9,000 calls in an average year -- but not all their cases are so bizarre. In fact, red-faced university employees who accidentally set off building alarms top the list of call-outs.

Nonetheless, the 65-strong unit has its hands full.

"We have about 35,000 students on campus and about 12,000 faculty and staff, so our area is similar to that of a small community," says Campus Security Associate Director Iain McLellan.

Campus Security officers are responsible for the safety and security of people and property on campus, carrying out patrols by foot, bicycle squad and car, and running the campus security bus. They help keep order at demonstrations, provide traffic control at car accidents and large events on campus, and respond to calls about everything from alarms and suspicious persons to trespassing and theft.

The officers handle minor assaults, vandalism and minor theft -- usually diverting student offenders away from the criminal justice process and to the Student Discipline Board. On more serious issues, including assault, bomb threats and burglaries, Campus Security works with the campus' RCMP detachment, which is responsible for all matters that involve violence or threats of violence.

"Our relationship is very good - we assist each other, attend training sessions together and work together on community-based initiatives such as the Rape Aggression Defence program," McLellan says.

Regardless of the division of labour, Campus Security officers often receive the first call and are therefore first on the scene, sometimes facing unpredictable situations.

Not long ago, security officers were attacked with pepper spray while chasing a person they believed to be an intruder.

Despite such dangers, officers are armed only with security training, negotiating skills and handcuffs. No pepper spray, no impact devices, and no weapons.

"Our officers are well trained, and selected for their ability to deal with issues in a common sense manner," McLellan says.

It seems to be effective. The number of incidents at UBC has remained steady over the past few years, McLellan says, and is not disproportionate considering the size and population of the campus.

Troublemakers from off campus are often well known to Campus Security officers, who work with the RCMP to prevent them from committing offences.

"Compared to the type of crime, vandalism and social disorder you get outside, the campus is very safe. But there's a feeling here that because this is a university, everyone in the community is honest -- it's not that simple," McLellan warns. "There are people out there who willingly and gladly take advantage of that false sense of security.

"Security on campus is a two-way street -- employees need to make sure they lock doors, make sure they know who's coming in, not leave purses lying around, and use common sense."

Calls to March 31, 2002 (not all categories are listed)

  • Alarms 361
  • Assist public 203
  • Access 162
  • Insecure premises 95
  • Suspicious Persons 83
  • Vandalism 35
  • Theft 31
  • Trespass 11
  • Assaults 10
  • Break and enter 6
  • Bomb threats 2
  • Bike theft 1

Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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