As September and back-to-school season nears, a whole new crop of Ontario students is getting ready to head off to their first year of college or university. As we outlined in a recent blog, most will be overwhelmed (in a good way) as they immerse themselves in academic life, meet new friends, experience new ideas and, for many, adjust to life in a new city or town where they might be living away from home for the first time.

It can be both an exciting and challenging time for a young adult, not to mention their anxious parents. As we noted earlier, many of these students will also experience security threats that they haven’t yet faced in their young lives. That’s why it’s so important for post-secondary institutions to educate students on the basics of on-campus security, helping to keep them informed and vigilant while the school takes necessary steps in the background to ensure their safety—everything from maintaining ample campus security patrols to installing advanced keycard and camera systems across campus facilities.

Off-campus migration after first year

But after that first year of on-campus living, many students will relocate off campus in search or cheaper rent, or because their school simply lacks the space to house its entire student body beyond their frosh year. Whatever the motivation, that move invites new challenges on the security front. The reason, as many who have lived off-campus will attest, is that affordable accommodation options tend to be lacking when it comes to security. Some rental apartments or houses barely have adequate plumbing, let alone effective security systems.

That’s why it’s so important that students (and potentially parents, who may be helping them acquire off-campus accommodation) look for housing with adequate security features in place. Do the locks on the main entry doorways work? Are the locks on the back-patio doors functional? Is the residence in a decent neighbourhood, tucked away from potentially problematic areas where unsavoury characters might be up to no good? These are all basic, yet important, considerations.

Another is supplemental security infrastructure. We would highly recommend installing a security system to protect any off-campus residence if one isn’t already in place. Residential security systems are relatively inexpensive nowadays and provide peace of mind, assuring residents that if an intruder enters the premises, help will soon be on the way.

Living off-campus with friends to help alleviate security concerns

Most students will also look to share a house or an apartment with friends. This is a great idea to help offset costs and can also help bolster their shared security. That can be as simple as splitting the cost of that security system or even developing their own safety protocol. If a roommate isn’t home by a specified time, for example, their housemate(s) can send a quick text to ensure they’re OK. Students living off-campus can also create similar buddy systems to the ones offered on campuses, where security guards will walk students to and from class at night. Roommates (or other friends living off campus) can pair up when possible to ensure they all make it to and from class safely.

Also, set rules as to who gets to visit the house or apartment. It’s one thing to keep bad guys out of your place, but it’s entirely more challenging to kick them out if they’ve been invited to pay a visit in the first place.

Parents can be part of the off-campus security team

Of course, parents can also get involved in the process. Just because your kids live far away doesn’t mean you can’t check in from time to time, ensuring your child’s safety with a quick text or message on a preferred messaging platform. It also gives you an excuse to connect with the kids you might already be missing! Yes, empty-nesters, that happens more than you may expect.

Perhaps most importantly, ensuring the safety and security of students living off campus requires education (and constant reminders). Many of these students are teenagers finding their way in the world. Everything is new and awe-inspiring. They sometimes take risks that are ridiculous in hindsight, but make perfect sense at the time. As such, they need to be reminded that vigilance is a 24-hour consideration. Making smart decisions, avoiding dark alleyways and poorly-lit areas, bypassing questionable neighbourhoods and having a charged cell phone on hand at all times are just a few of the many simple, common-sense steps they can deploy at any time. They also happen to be basic lessons they can carry though life.

Living off-campus is a fun experience for anyone who’s had the chance to embrace all that the experience offers. It’s even better if a student can enjoy it without incident in a safe, secure environment.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security

Sometimes all it takes is one bad employee to sully an organization’s reputation. If you ask one Ottawa couple that attended a recent Kevin Hart show at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, Ont., that’s exactly what happened after they were allegedly forcibly removed from the venue.

According to media reports, the incident occurred when Nathan Bhateley and his girlfriend, Samantha Molloy, were asked to leave the show after being accused by security guards of using their cellphones. According to the guards, this was a breach of venue policy.

The couple argued they were only using the flashlights on their phones to locate seats in the darkened arena. They said the guards disagreed, saying that any use of mobile devices constitutes a violation of policy and that they’d have to leave. As they were being escorted out, Bhateley, informing one guard that he felt the incident was a misunderstanding, was allegedly shoved against a wall and later placed in a headlock. Molloy claimed that she had her phone swatted away by another guard after attempting to record the incident.

Bhateley says he was put into a headlock once again after asking to speak to a supervisor.

The incident raises some important points for anyone employing a security firm to patrol their commercial property, be it a concert venue, retail outlet, office or industrial facility.

First, there is the question of appropriate use of force. According to the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services:

“Where a security guard is required or authorized by law to do anything in the administration or enforcement of the law, section 25 of the Criminal Code (Canada) is applicable. In these circumstances, section 25 allows a security guard (like all members of the public) to use as much force as is necessary as long as they act on reasonable grounds. However, section 26 states that individuals who use force are also criminally responsible for any excess of force in these circumstances. 

It is important that security guards have an understanding of use of force theory in order to avoid using excessive force. Security guards should also be familiar with the concepts of excited delirium syndrome and positional asphyxia; these may occur when a person is being physically restrained, and may lead to sudden or unexpected death.”

Yes, guards are legally permitted to use force, but only to a point. At Wincon Security, our training is clear: force should only be used in absolute extreme circumstances. Security personnel should use the training and tools at their disposal to de-escalate a situation whenever possible. Even if an individual is becoming aggressive, there are often non-aggressive ways to contain them until police can intervene to handle the situation.

Being cavalier with applied force is never an option for our team members. Unfortunately, not all security firms follow such rigorous incident-management protocols.

That’s why recruitment and training are so important. If security firms don’t take the time to hire level-headed individuals and weed out prospective candidates who might opt to use aggressive tactics where other, more effective means might be readily available, they invite incidents such as this one. If their training is inadequate, security staffers may allow their own emotions and frustrations to boil over in the moment, prompting them to use heavy-handed tactics instead of trying to reason with the individual.

And that brings us to the final, most important point: choose your security firm wisely. There are many organizations that cut corners when it comes to training and recruitment, have astronomically high employee turnover rates and lack the necessary protocols and accountability procedures to keep their employees in check. When deciding to work with a firm, ask for client references, take the time to review their workplace policies and ask specific questions that relate to your business. If you own a retail store, for example, ask scenario-based questions to assess the suitability of their preferred approach. For example: “If one of your guards catches a shoplifter stealing merchandise from our store, how would they react and handle the situation?”

As a result of this incident, Kevin Hart—who we can guarantee had no idea that it occurred in the first place—has his name and reputation tied to a very unfortunate incident, as does the venue.

“I don’t want to go back there … knowing that that’s the guards that they hire, and they’re allowed to treat you like that,” Molloy told CBC News.

It takes years to overcome bad press such as this, but only a couple of days to properly vet your next security firm. The latter is well worth the time and effort.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security

 

Residential and commercial property developers are some of the Canada’s most visionary entrepreneurs, taking incredible financial risks to build our cities and towns, filling them with homes to raise our families and constructing the buildings needed to grow our businesses. But they don’t always think security first.

When constructing a new residential or commercial development, for example, their focus tends to be on getting their buildings or home built. Makes perfect sense. But when their crews go home at night, many of these properties are left under-protected.  There are many instances when we’ve been called in to patrol a development after the property has been subject to some form of crime, be it theft or vandalism. It’s only then that we realize that the developer entrusted the protection of their multi-million-dollar investment to a single security guard.

Inadequate security coverage is common

That’s right. There are times when a lone guard is tasked with protecting an entire complex or building, despite the fact that it may cover a sprawling swath of land, and in most cases isn’t yet equipped with necessary security technology to facilitate easier monitoring. To call this a major security oversight would be an understatement.

That said, it’s not always practical to hire an entire security team to monitor a development under construction. Margins are tight in the construction phase and developers are inherently budget-conscious in their dealings. As a business owner, I understand their frugal philosophy. But it’s important to note that hiring a few guards is far cheaper than the cost of managing property damage, theft or vandalism. That’s why it’s important for development firms to be sure to take security into account when formulating their construction budgets. Doing so will help ensure that a vital consideration—security—is covered off, while avoiding surprise expenses that can negatively impact a project’s success.

Another important point to consider is site access. You may have enough guards on site, but are entry and exit points controlled? Even the most diligent guards will be forced to turn their backs and patrol different areas throughout their shift—they can’t be everywhere at once. If your development has open access points, you only invite added risk. Now, it’s often not feasible to fence in large housing projects. But by installing effective LED lighting, budgeting for ample security coverage and even installing high-definition cameras as a matter of practice from the start of a project, you can help secure peace of mind and deter would-be criminals.

Commercial property security starts with site access control

Of course, security for new developments isn’t only a nighttime consideration. Any reputable security firm should be able to work with your organization to develop a 360-degree security strategy that assesses all potential threats and vulnerabilities and takes steps to mitigate risk at all points of the day or night. During working hours, for example, it’s wise to document any trade, administrative employee or development firm representative who enters or exits the property, including the time they arrived and departed, their contact details and the reason for the visit. Understanding exactly who’s stepping foot on the property will not only provide greater access control, but will also ensure accountability—by helping to determine who was on-site and when—if an incident occurs.

The risks of allowing unauthorized visitors isn’t restricted to potential property theft or damage, of course. Poor property access control also invites dramatically increased insurance liability. If an unauthorized visitor is injured while on your property and your organization is deemed to have been negligent in securing the site, you could be on the hook for a substantial payout to people who shouldn’t have been there in the first place—not to mention hefty legal fees. While incidents such as these are thankfully relatively uncommon, when they do occur, they can be financially crippling for a cost-averse developer.

Round-the-clock condominium security is crucial

That’s particularly true in the case of high-rise condominium or office towers. There have been incidents of individuals taking cranes for a joy ride, for example. Spoiler alert: bad things happen when cranes are used in inappropriate ways by untrained operators. And let’s not forget about the Internet-driven phenomenon whereby people climb to the top of extremely tall structures and film themselves doing flips or hanging off girders for the benefit of their online followers. Again, there have been examples of people falling to their deaths when trying such stunts.

You simply don’t need to attract increased legal liability and risk by failing to secure a construction site. That’s why it’s so important to hire an experienced security firm with the resources to provide adequate, round-the-clock coverage for your development, whatever its size or scope.

Real estate markets might fluctuate and economies can be volatile, but by controlling security risk, you can at least keep the lid on otherwise manageable costs and focus on what you do best—building exciting new residential and commercial communities.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security

When most Canadian students venture off to college or university, on-campus security is one of the last things on their mind. Studying, gaining the skills to build a meaningful career and developing important social networks and potential future business contacts—not to mention the odd party here are there—tend to top their priority list.

That’s why it’s incumbent on the administrators and managers of post-secondary institutions to take security seriously, even if their students don’t. While most Canadian campuses are remarkably safe, incidents still occur. From a night of drinking gone awry to sexual assaults, students and staff can be particularly vulnerable targets, for a variety of reasons.

The first has to do with age and inexperience. Most students are relatively young, and many are living away from home for the first time—in some cases in a large, far-away town or city. They don’t necessarily fully understand or address the risks before them. Being ‘street smart’ is a skill learned over time through experience. Second, would-be predators often gravitate towards campuses simply due to the prevalence of potential targets. Security threats abound.

The good news is that most colleges and universities do a good job protecting their students, even if gaps persist. In particular in the #MeToo era, with the increased focus on preventing sexual violence both on-campus and off, we need to do more to ensure that Canadians can live on campuses or attend classes in the safest environment possible.

At Wincon Security, we’ve been providing on-campus security services for the entirety of our 25-year history. Our systems continue to evolve to include the newest and most effective security techniques, while our embrace of technology as an integrated solutions provider has allowed us to introduce cutting-edge equipment to the benefit of our post-secondary partners.

There are still many colleges and universities, however, that haven’t embraced a proactive, comprehensive approach to security. If yours falls into that category, here are four steps you should take now to better secure your campus:

Set smart policies—Each campus and student body are different, so a one-size-fits-all security approach is bound to fail. Customize your strategy to suit everything from your collegiate culture to geographic realities. If yours is a sprawling campus that hasn’t yet introduced a buddy system where students (or student volunteers) are made available to walk their peers to and from class at nighttime, consider that simple policy change an important and simple first step to improving campus security. In addition, take the time to review policies for on-campus alcohol consumption—perhaps limiting the duration of sanctioned parties or events, for example—which can be a common cause of security-related challenges. Whatever the tactics that work best in your particular circumstance, save the theoretical discussions for philosophy class and take action now to develop and implement effective, practical policies that address your school’s unique needs.

Improve on-campus lighting and landscaping—This is a tactic that any commercial or residential property owner can leverage, but it’s one that’s particularly important for universities and colleges. Put simply, dark places overgrown with foliage are the perfect hiding spot for nefarious characters. By trimming hedges back and creating clear sightlines, security professionals have a much better chance of catching bad guys before they can cause harm to students and faculty. While improved LED lighting delivers illuminating security benefits, it also gives an aesthetic boost to a gloomy campus. In other words, it’s a worthwhile investment in a variety of ways.

Leverage technology—From high-tech cameras to advanced biometrics, many colleges and universities have already made significant investments in the latest and greatest security technologies. But more can be done to ensure safety. We’ve seen organizations glean major benefits from the introduction of tools such as facial-recognition software to help identify criminals caught on camera after an incident has occurred. We’ve also seen schools tap advanced artificial intelligence algorithms to highlight areas of potential risk. Some schools are even using drones and robots to patrol campuses. All of these tools cost money to introduce, of course, so if they haven’t already, safety-conscious institutions should start budgeting now to upgrade their security infrastructure.

Hire trained staff—Whether your college or university hires and manages its own security staff or outsources the task to a third-party security provider, it’s imperative that security personnel are trained and experienced in the unique aspects of protecting a campus, both inside and outside of its many buildings. Look to hire a security firm with a comprehensive training program and ask about its employee turnover rates. While staff churn is high in the security business, if the firm admits that it turns over most of its staff every year, it can be a sign of mismanagement and could pose business service continuity challenges. In addition, having trained security staff will help bolster a shared culture of safety where students can rest easy knowing that those assigned to ensure their protection not only understand the importance of their role, but are equipped to do the job right.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security