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When most Canadian students venture off to college or university, on-campus security is one of the last things on their minds. 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.

There are still many colleges and universities that haven’t embraced a proactive approach to campus security services.

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.

Wincon Campus security van
Our campus security services are unmatched in Toronto and the GTA. Call us for a quote!

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 services. 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 a 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.

Security tips to help students stay safe while living off-campus

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 outline below, 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 young adults, 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.

We highly recommend installing a security system to protect any off-campus residence.

Off-campus migration after first year

But after that first year of on-campus living, many students will relocate off-campus in search of 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.

Event security guards at Kevin Hart show helping guests
Ensure your off-campus security services are modern, effective and approachable.

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 services 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 through 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.

INTERESTED IN CAMPUS SECURITY SERVICES?

FILL OUT OUR QUOTE FORM AND LEARN ABOUT YOUR CAMPUS SECURITY OPTIONS.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security

Imagine sitting at home, watching television, playing with your kids or settling in for a night’s sleep. Seems utterly routine, right? More so if you have a residential security system, which you assume is providing an added layer of protection for you and your loved ones.

Now imagine carrying out those mundane activities while being watched the entire time by a stranger. That was the terrifying realization for a Saskatoon woman who learned that—unbeknownst to her—another client of the home monitoring company she used to protect her house was, in fact, able to view her every movement using the client’s own system login details.

“We could have easily been broken into or harmed if this had been in the wrong hands,” the customer, Shelan Faith, told CBC news.

So, how was Faith’s home security system breached? Not through the efforts of an experienced hacker, it turns out. The U.S.-based security firm that installed the system told Faith that the mishap was the result of “… a human installation error in connecting to the wrong email address.” It turns out another customer was able to access her in-home camera and approached the company to inform them of the mix-up, but to no avail.

“I don’t think I stopped shaking for days … just to know that somebody could see into my home or access my home.”

Shelan Faith

That customer then proceeded to write a letter to Faith explaining that she had full access to the cameras in her home and provided details of activities she’d witnessed to verify that the letter wasn’t some kind of elaborate hoax. Faith, terrified by the details outlined in the letter, yet relieved that the author wasn’t acting nefariously when trying to inform her of the problem, contacted the security firm who tried to bill her thousands of dollars to cancel her security contract.

After the story broke in the media, the firm agreed to waive those charges and proceeded to cancel Faith’s home monitoring contract free of charge.

The sensational details of this story aside, it’s important to remember that this kind of error is very rare in our industry. But it underscores the vigilance with which customers should vet prospective home monitoring companies, and the threats posed by individuals who do, in fact, attempt to hack security systems.

Buyer beware

When contracting a security firm to protect your home, always research their reputation through word of mouth, online ratings websites or a simple, quick Google search to develop an understanding of its customer service reputation. Once you engage directly with the firm, be prepared to ask tough questions: How sophisticated are their home monitoring systems? Some security camera equipment lacks any type of security software, which can explain why some products cost hundreds of dollars less than other, more reputable systems on the market.

Another major question: Is the security firm reputable, or is it someone who shows up at your door and tells you that they can install a camera or security system in your house? Are their passwords and systems encrypted? How do they ensure that situations such as the one that affected Faith don’t happen to their customers? Do they have an in-house tech team, or do they outsource key functions, such as installation, to a third-party? These are all key queries.

Retail or condo security guard helping customer with directions
Always research the Toronto Security Company you’re thinking of hiring to protect you.

While every customer should search for a great deal on their home security systems, remember the old adage that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Companies that offer bargain-basement rates are likely to provide shoddy service—or balk at cancelling service agreements or refuse to address glaring issues when errors (which happen to be their fault!) become obvious. That doesn’t mean you should overpay for home security, but do be aware that not all service providers are created equally.

Changing passwords

Most advanced home security systems nowadays are effectively plug-and-play—that is, once they’re installed, they require very little input from homeowners, except to arm and disarm when away from the house.

But as with any encrypted device, it does require one important step: changing the system’s factory password setting, assuming the technician who installs the system hasn’t already made that crucial change themselves. Why? Thieves are extremely clever and resourceful. As we’ve seen in cases where devices such as mobile phones are hacked, professionals have proven adept at gaining access to factory passwords and using them to break into security systems, rob a property and be gone before a property owner knows what’s happened.

The same individuals also have expertise in hacking systems outright, even without passwords. Working with a reputable service provider who uses the most advanced equipment available—e.g., one that ensures its software is regularly or automatically updated—is one way to mitigate this risk. So, too, is being proactive and changing your password on a regular basis, whether or not you’re the victim of a break-in.

Simply pick a day each month and be sure to change those essential login details (and don’t share them with anyone but your spouse or family members) to reduce your risk.

This wouldn’t have helped in Faith’s case, but if nothing else, we can take a lesson from that unfortunate incident and remind ourselves that home security does, indeed, require a high degree of vigilance on the part of residents.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO
Wincon Security

This blog is part of our ongoing Wincon Team blogging initiative, designed to keep our employees up-to-date on company and security-industry news and developments

Ever wondered what makes a great company?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately as we celebrate our 25th year in business. A great deal of our success can be attributed to strategic thinking, great systems and operations management, excellence in service delivery and, of course, all of you—as I mentioned in another article in this newsletter, people are our strength.

I’ve known that for a long time, of course, but reflecting on what our employees mean to Wincon Security prompted me to dig a little deeper. Specifically, what makes our security firm different from the scores of others currently operating across the Greater Toronto Area? Well, we certainly deliver leading-edge commercial property services that, in my view, outmatch those of our competitors.

As an integrated solutions provider, we also leverage technology better than anyone else in the business. Whether we’re analyzing the benefits of drone technology to patrol properties or helping clients select the biometric entry systems to suit their security needs, we’ve successfully evolved our company and adopted a technology-first approach, all while using human expertise and experience to keep our clients’ properties safe and secure. Few other firms have pivoted quite as effectively.

But there’s a competitive advantage that we have at Wincon Security that no other firm has: our employee culture.

For a company like ours, culture is everything. But what, exactly, is an employee culture? It’s probably best described as the attitude or the philosophical approach that helps carry the company forward. It’s compromised of the personality of every employee and incorporates everything from workplace policies to strategic business objectives, to name only a few key components. It’s the DNA of a business.

Wincon employees
Proud of our Toronto Security Guard & Experts

A recent Harvard Business Review article underscored the importance of culture, particularly as it pertains to maintaining strong employee engagement:

… disengagement is costly. In studies by the Queens School of Business and by the Gallup Organization, disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects. In organizations with low employee engagement scores, they experienced 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth, and 65% lower share price over time. Importantly, businesses with highly engaged employees enjoyed 100% more job applications.

Our DNA is unique in that it’s not only characterized by some great people, but also incredible dedication and extraordinary entrepreneurialism that runs throughout our organization. I’ve lost count of the number of times that a member of our team has approached me to share thoughts on how we might deliver our services more effectively, to highlight a challenge they’ve encountered or an opportunity we should seize upon to help drive revenue growth. That kind of communication is not only helpful, it’s incredibly important if we’re going to keep working towards building a bigger, better Wincon.

Another aspect of our culture that I find striking is the level of care that we have for each other. I would say that without a single exception, all of the employees that we now have in our organization are not here simply for a pay cheque. They want to make a difference, and they have the backs of their co-workers. That’s an impressive aspect of any culture, and one I’m proud to say is a defining feature of ours.

When we faced a challenge with a rogue operations manager in recent months, our team rallied together. We identified the problem together. We stayed strong during a lengthy investigative process together—and emerged even stronger as a group. Most importantly, we didn’t tolerate behaviour that wasn’t indicative of our cultural values.

That’s right, we share values as an organization. While we all have our own personal opinions and values, our culture is defined by characteristics such as hard work, a determination to help each other succeed and a commitment to doing right by our clients, in every engagement. We treat each other with empathy, respect and compassion. We help each other learn and grow as people and professionals; and we celebrate our successes as a team while learning from any mistakes that might occur along the way.

Not many companies can lay claim to such a strong culture—but we can. Our goal in the coming year is to find ways to strengthen those bonds through training, smart recruitment and sound management. It’s going to be a great year and I’m very proud that all of you are dedicated to helping fuel our success.

Winston Stewart, founder

Wincon Security

This blog is part of our ongoing Wincon Team blogging initiative, designed to keep our employees up-to-date on company news and developments

It’s amazing just how quickly 25 years can fly by.

Back in 1992, I founded Wincon Security with very little experience in the industry. What I did have was an inkling that commercial property security services could be delivered more effectively. So, I took what little knowledge I had and set out on an incredible journey. A quarter-century later, we’ve grown to become one of the Greater Toronto Area’s most respected security firms. We may not be the biggest, but I certainly think we’re the best.

Sure, I’m a little biased, but I think you would all agree that we do a great job keeping our clients’ properties safe and secure—not to mention putting a smile on their faces.

This year we’ll be celebrating 25 years in business by continuing to recognize our long-time employees and top performers, announcing exciting new initiatives and continuing to expand our footprint across the security industry. Despite a few headwinds in the form of new government regulations and related pressures, I know we’ll continue to grow Wincon and further solidify our position as a leading security service provider. And we’re going to communicate all of these great new developments to all of you in a new employee newsletter—starting with the one you’re reading here.

As part of this process I’ve been thinking a great deal about the many contributing factors behind our success as a company. We’ve made some smart strategic decisions and have gradually pivoted to becoming an integrated solutions provider, leveraging cutting-edge technology wherever possible to find new ways to secure our clients’ properties. Those are all important decisions that have undoubtedly fueled our growth.

But after a great deal of thought and reflection, I came to realize how we do business was less important than why we do it. We’re here to help keep businesses and residents safe. And that’s only possible thanks to your hard work. The real secret to our success aren’t just systems and processes—it’s people.

That’s especially true in our industry. On a daily basis, our guards and support staff liaise with our clients, as well as directly with the general public in retail and residential environments, for example. We’re on the frontlines responding to security calls, assisting condominium and apartment residents, helping retailers minimize shrinkage, and providing strategic advice to our clients as they seek to mitigate risk and guard against any potential disasters that might affect their properties. And those are only some of the services we provide!

But doing that well takes dedication, determination to provide the highest levels of service, collaboration and innovation. That’s what each and everyone one of you brings to the table, often in your own unique ways, allowing our team to positively impact our clients’ businesses. Some of you have strengths in different areas, of course, but you all share a passion for what you do, while bringing the utmost professionalism to the job every day.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that you can’t build a successful company on a concept. Whether you’re making widgets or providing services to the public, your people are always going to be your greatest asset. I’ve always known this to be true, of course, but as we celebrate 25 years I’ve been reminded just how much all of you mean to our company.

Keep up the great work and let’s strive for another 25 outstanding years of service!

Winston Stewart, founder

Wincon Security