UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 9 | July
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
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
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
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
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
"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