Campus safety and security are integral to the success of colleges and universities and may boost student applications and the overall financial well-being of the institutions. However, a successful safety and security playbook must involve the general community, not just post-secondary institutions, according to the SHURE GTA panel, which consisted of executives from GardaWorld, Sheridan College, and Toronto Crime Stoppers. The session focused heavily on the impact of COVID-19 on campus and community policing and technological advancements that may improve security but raise privacy concerns.
Indeed, COVID-19 was a transformative and challenging period for many students on campus who encountered social isolation, and it prompted an entirely new way of thinking about on-campus security. The security experts at the SHURE session agreed that there has been a shift in everyday activity and behavior on campus. Security officials must also evolve best practices in highly trafficked post-secondary environments. The security experts noted they have not seen any slowdown in the demand for their services, creating a new challenge for hiring and recruitment.
“Most security programs work best when all stakeholders partner with the community and get on the same page to develop initiatives that have real results,” according to Derek Burns, Regional Director of GardaWorld. Burns served as moderator of the session.
The post-secondary representative on the session, Joshua Fortier, Director of the Campus Safety, Security, and Emergency Management Department at Sheridan College, said that it’s essential for everyone to be heard in the campus safety process.
Sean Sportun, Chair – Board of Directors of Toronto Crime Stoppers, told the SHURE audience that it’s essential to understand the stakeholders in the campus and community safety process. He described the partners as the police, media, and Toronto Crime Stoppers.
“Understanding that partnership with Toronto Crime Stoppers, how can we drive a message of community safety and well-being within the school community that I think is very important?” asked Sportun.
Noting a post-COVID socialization gap in the communities served through campus services, Burns asked Sportun how methodologies have changed at Toronto Crime Stoppers, especially with international students.
“It’s understanding the community build-up and the multicultural aspects of the community,” according to Sportun. “The students are fearful of reporting for whatever reason, that is, whether that be a perception of capital police and law enforcement back in their home country, or just not wanting to get involved with incidents or fear that it would impact their status or their immigration here in Canada.”
Josh Fortier of Sheridan said COVID has impacted student socialization and behavior.
“We’ve had people online at their computers, gyms, and lecture rooms for the last few years. Those are key years for our program, and now is the time to develop those skills and have them hang in post-secondary environments. And we’re expecting to be at the same spot as they were, and the reality is they’re not,” said Fortier.
Sean O’Neill, Community engagement and social media officer at Toronto Crime Stoppers, said that post-COVID, the most significant change is determining the level and type of security necessary on campus. “From a policing perspective, the biggest thing that I would say, from the changing experience, is identifying what we need to have in terms of police presence and what the study body will handle.”
The panelists went on to discuss technology and best practices for the future. With rapid changes in technology improving campus security, significant privacy concerns arise.
“Creating the watchful eye, if you will, for the risk,” noted Doug Sales, Senior Director at GardaWorld. “AI cameras now can predict behavior, and we cannot only predict the behavior but also track an individual through the complex, just one camera after another. And, predict where that person is going or should be going.”
Sales concluded with a note about the juxtaposition of technology, security, and privacy. “Privacy, sometimes, impedes in terms of what we can share and who we can share it with.”