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‘Tis the season for spending time with family and friends and the inevitable yuletide spree of shopping and gift-giving. Suburban malls and high-street stores are jammed in the lead-up to the holidays, as Torontonians make a final festive retail push before taking a breather and preparing for Boxing Week bargain bonanzas.

Unfortunately, this is also the time of year when busy retailers must contend with wide-scale theft. Statistics show that Canadian businesses lose more than $3 billion annually to crime, including both internal (e.g., employee) and external shoplifting that eats into profits and compromises retailers’ competitiveness. Rather than tackling the problem head-on, a new Toronto Police Service pilot project is moving in a very different direction.

Toronto Police Service introduces Stop Theft 

First-time shoplifters caught pilfering items within the boundaries of the city’s 51 and 52 divisions will no longer be prosecuted under the six-month Stop Theft program, an initiative that will permit private security and theft-prevention guards to effectively catch and release shoplifters after documenting their personal details, then providing them to officers at one of the two divisions participating in the program. The Toronto Police Service’s aim is to free police resources to deal with higher-priority calls.

Non-violent shoplifters who are 18 years of age or older with identification and who are accused of stealing merchandise totaling less than $1,000 are eligible for release. Police will still attend the scene if requested and reserve the right to lay charges by summons in the future, depending on the circumstances.

“It is estimated that retailers lose more than $8 million a day to store theft. What is more worrisome, however, is that today’s thieves are becoming increasingly sophisticated, therefore posing an even greater risk to the health and safety of the Canadian public.”

“What we’ve been trying to do through the modernization process is make sure that our police officers are where the public needs them the most,” Meaghan Gray, acting director of corporate communications for the Toronto Police Service, told the Toronto Star. “And maybe responding to … shoplifting calls — that can be held just as efficiently by a theft prevention officer partnered with us over the phone — allows us to reassign those officers to more pressing calls for service.”

While the efforts of police to more effectively utilize their officers’ time is laudable, the bigger challenge for retailers can be summed up in a statement last year from Diane J. Brisebois, President, and CEO of the Retail Council of Canada:

Removing a theft deterrent

Indeed, the major challenge with the Stop Theft program is that it assumes that shoplifting is limited to individuals such as thrill-seeking teens and those with mental health issues. The reality is that organized crime groups are behind much of the bottom-line killing losses plaguing retailers at all levels. Products such as razor blades and baby formula—the latter used to mask drug trafficking, or sold for a hefty profit on the black market—are two products that have long been a prime retail target for organized crime, making retail loss prevention services more worthwhile.

Holiday Retail Theft shoplifting - hire retail security
Retail loss prevention services are more needed now than ever.

A program such as this removes the most important deterrent to shoplifting—immediate arrest and the threat of significant prosecution. It will be an especially major problem in less-prosperous areas already dealing with high rates of both minor and major crimes.

Retailers will need to continue to invest more in loss-prevention tactics, including the use of civil demand recovery letters, which allow them to sue alleged shoplifters in civil court to recoup the cost of a stolen or damaged item, not to mention costs relating to security patrol and enforcement. It’s safe to assume that overwhelmed police won’t have the time to follow up with an accused shoplifter after an incident, even if the person has a criminal record.

Why? Cash-strapped, budget-conscious police services simply lack the time and money to continue to pursue low-level crimes as they once did. The unfortunate reality is that retailers will pay the price and will need to pursue punitive litigation in an effort to deter would-be thieves—itself a potentially costly process.

Programs such as Stop Theft are designed to modernize the response to some crimes, but in doing so they tend to sow chaos and return us to a time when the low-level crime was rampant. Now, unfortunately, shopkeepers need to be more vigilant than ever, treating every customer as a potential shoplifter, which is always bad for business.

Toronto police introduce new security alarm response rules

Toronto police announced a major change to their burglar alarm response policy. Specifically, they made it clear that they would no longer respond to alarms unless there was verified proof that some form of criminal activity or a threat to an individual was occurring at the time of the notification.

Up to that point, police would always send a car to any commercial or residential property where an alarm was sounded. Better to be safe than sorry, the thinking went. According to their revised guidelines, police will now only respond to an alarm if a threat can be verified by an audio or video device, there are multiple zone activations in effect—which are typical in the case of a break-and-enter with multiple burglars at the crime scene—or they have an eyewitness on the scene calling in the incident. This could include a private security guard.

Toronto police will still attend verifiable alarm calls

Why the change? Police data from 2016 show that 97 percent of security system-related calls were false alarms. “When a panic alarm button is hit, we will absolutely attend,” a police spokesperson told media “Also, if we get evidence there has been a burglary, we will also attend that call too.” Really? It’s reassuring to know that the police will attend actual crimes. Needless to say, this new policy raises several red flags to those of us in the security field. The most obvious being that some break-ins could foreseeably go unchecked because authorities deem them to be false alarms, or because their slow response allows criminals to come and go without the risk of apprehension.

The challenge for commercial property owners is that investigating issues such as potential break-ins or vandalism often takes a back seat to other, more serious crimes.

To help prevent those false alarms, police are advising homeowners and commercial property managers to update key holder information, ensure regular alarm system maintenance, change alarm batteries frequently, keep alarms free of dust and debris and educate residents, tenants, and employees on the system operation protocols.

While the policy change is understandable—having police respond to a plethora of false alarms is, of course, costly and inefficient use of resources—it discounts the possibility that actual crimes may be in progress, with verification coming only when it’s too late. Criminals, being a clever lot, will undoubtedly use these new rules to their advantage if they know the police aren’t going to respond when a standalone alarm is sounded.

Robust security is more important than ever

Most importantly, this underscores the need to maintain 24/7 protection for commercial or residential properties. That means having an active security presence and state-of-the-art monitoring systems—or, at the very least, one of those two crucial components—in place to build out a comprehensive security strategy to protect your assets. With these new rules governing what, exactly, justifies a live police response, investing inadequate security is no longer an option for commercial property or residential property owners, and that includes condominium boards.

As such, most organizations will need to re-evaluate their current alarm systems. Is it enough, or do they now need new cameras? Do those cameras need to be monitored by a security service in order to verify alarm issues? Manufacturers, integrators, monitoring centres, and the end-users need to answer these questions or risk being left behind by these new requirements.

Wincon robot security guard ideal for retail loss prevention services at malls and commercial buildings.
Wincon robot security guard ideal for retail loss prevention services at malls and commercial buildings.

Expect traditional police duties to be increasingly outsourced

Another notable aspect of development is that it highlights an emerging trend across North America: the outsourcing of police duties to private security providers. An important line in the Toronto Police Service’s policy change was the one noting that eyewitness verification of a security breach would warrant an on-site visit from the police. The fact that the eyewitness could be a security guard means that police understand—and perhaps even welcome—the involvement of private security firms.

We can expect to see an even greater willingness on the part of the authorities to accept third-party security help in the years ahead as police budgets are slashed or frozen, and resources are redirected to priority areas. The challenge for commercial property owners is that investigating issues such as potential break-ins or vandalism—although obviously well within the mandate of local police services—often takes a back seat to the prevention or investigation of violent crimes or other, more serious offenses.

Choosing the right security provider is key

Now, it’s important to remember that not only does your organization need security help to keep its assets and people safe, but it also needs to partner with the right security provider, one that takes an integrated approach and provides effective training to its staff. The trend of downloading security duties to private companies shines a spotlight on the processes and procedures that security firms develop and follow. How well trained are their staff? What are their employee retention rates? Is their HR department fronted by a proverbial revolving door as people come and go looking for a job rather than a career? The maturity and sophistication of firms across our industry is now under greater scrutiny than ever before.

So, too, are service providers’ embrace of technology. Everything from drones to patrol robots to leading-edge software and video camera systems are the kind of tools that will become increasingly important in the years ahead. Criminals are always getting smarter. They will find ways to circumvent even the most advanced electronics. Is your security provider equipped to keep pace?

In one sense the Toronto Police Service’s alarm response policy change has a silver lining. Over time, a greater reliance on reliable private security providers will help push out the fringe players from our industry whose inadequate services put clients at greater risk. Because when the police won’t respond without knowing that a crime is in progress, there’s simply too much at stake to put your commercial or residential property and assets in the hands of an unprofessional security firm.

Is your business interested in retail loss prevention services?

Fill out our quote form and enjoy a consultation with us to learn about your retail security options.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO
Wincon Security 

A condominium construction project is challenging at the best of times. Managing the complexity of large-scale capital repairs or upgrades, and accounting for the sheer number of logistical considerations to eventually arrive at a successful outcome, can tax even the most experienced condominium manager.  During the coronavirus pandemic, those already daunting obstacles have become far more difficult to clear—and underscores the important role that a condominium’s security team can play throughout a construction project.

Damage related to water, fire or mold, or even long-term concrete and other forms of building deterioration, are just some of the many factors that can compel a condo restoration initiative in the first place. Remediating these issues is always expensive. They often arise unexpectedly and create an immediate sense of urgency—noise, dust and dirt, amenity closures and other disruptions including building access limitations can quickly heighten tensions while the project is underway. Careful planning can help mitigate those and many other issues that can compromise residents’ lifestyle experience and enjoyment.

Take the time to think about your property’s long-term security requirements.

The current complication, of course, is that the constant flow of tradespeople onto and off of a property can create COVID-19 exposure risks that must be minimized in order to protect an entire condominium community. The question is, how? Here are several ways that condominium property managers can utilize their security personnel to make a property restoration as comfortable and efficient as possible for all parties involved:

Take a team approach

The first step is understanding that it takes a team to manage a construction project during a pandemic. Your general restoration contractor and their various trades and sub-trades will comprise the bulk of that group, but it’s essential to also include your security firm in the process. They’ll be on the frontlines managing, monitoring, and ensuring that only authorized individuals can access the property—but also working with residents to address their concerns. In other words, they’re not simply construction site security guards, they’re your frontline community managers. If an unforeseen situation relating to the restoration suddenly emerges—a trade accidentally cuts a gas or water line, for example—they’ll likely be the first ones on the scene and alert first responders and/or the construction contractor. If a resident complains about noise or has questions about how the job is progressing, they’ll likely be the first ones asked to listen or pass along information on the condominium manager’s behalf.

Wincon security guards protecting commercial or condo building
Our construction site security guards protect you while assisting your residents.

Remember that this isn’t merely a building, it’s home to scores of people. Providing outstanding customer service is an expectation at any time, but a construction project is an opportunity to demonstrate that as a condominium manager, you take clients’ happiness to heart. Security staff can be instrumental in driving that message home and reinforcing it through their day-to-day interaction with residents.

Leverage your security guards’ diverse skills

Security personnel are the bridge between the parties affected by the construction (e.g., residents) and those involved in its rollout (e.g., the trades). Your construction site security guards should have a full list of all tradespeople involved in the project from start to finish, if only to be able to verify their identity as needed. They should have a full schedule of work slated for various stages of the project. They should also be present when briefings are delivered to the condominium board. While their job is to ensure the safety and security of the property and the people occupying it, it’s also to help foster the right atmosphere and understand how the project is progressing—particularly important in luxury condos where a premium is placed on the resident experience.

As part of that process—and beyond having a general awareness of the project implementation plan—security guards will need to conduct regular contact tracing in case an outbreak occurs. Having that information at the ready and being able to deliver it to public health officials and both your management team and the condominium board could mean the difference between containing COVID-19’s spread across a community, or seeing it rage out of control and impacting both resident health and the construction project’s successful completion.

Security personnel are the bridge between the parties affected by the construction and those involved in the rollout.

Give them what they need

It’s essential that construction site security guards have the necessary tools to do their job and community liaison experts during a condominium restoration. That means providing them with adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure their safety. It’s the best way to keep your security team healthy and on the job. PPE should be kept in a central location and made available to staff at the start of every shift.

It’s also important that they have access to efficient and effective contact tracing software that’s both user-friendly and robust enough to collect and manage the information of hundreds (maybe even thousands) of residents. Having a way to handle the reams of data they’ll be acquiring will help manage or prevent COVID-19 outbreaks if they occur while managing the inflow and outflow of tradespeople and reducing the risk of potential security breaches.

Think a step ahead

No matter the reason for your restoration project—and even though we’re in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic—take the time to think about your property’s long-term security requirements. If the restoration is particularly extensive, such as in the case of a major flood or fire damage, you may find an opportunity to implement new security technology infrastructure (think biometrics or ultra-HD surveillance cameras), or perhaps even designing security-friendly spaces to accept the flood of food deliveries and e-commerce packages currently inundating so many condo lobbies. That volume is only poised to grow in the years ahead as more of us shop and dine online. Work with your security provider to not only manage your community and provide the best resident experience possible throughout the restoration but to also look ahead and develop a comprehensive strategy that protects your property’s security requirements five to 10 years into the future.

In the end, proactive thinking will save money and position your condominium as an even more desirable place to live.

ARE YOU INTERESTED IN SECURITY FOR YOUR SITE?

FILL OUT OUR QUOTE FORM AND ENJOY A CONSULTATION WITH US.

Winston Stewart

President and CEO, Wincon Security

Nearly a year ago, our world changed. Few of us knew much, if anything, about the COVID-19 virus that would soon transform our social interactions, our economy and our lives. But we soon got a crash course in epidemiology and terms such as ‘social distancing’ as the federal and provincial governments acted quickly to lockdown our communities and introduce sweeping health and safety measures. Through it all, Wincon Security guards and supervisors were on the coronavirus pandemic frontlines.

Our employees responded with professionalism, hard work and a dedication to excellence that was beyond exceptional—it was a true embodiment of our focus on providing the very best customer service experience our industry has to offer. To a person, our team exemplified our ‘Built on Service. Driven by Culture’ company mantra. My gratitude goes out to all of our employees for their ongoing support and efforts to continue improving our client experience. But in the midst of a tumultuous year, the work of two of our staff truly stood out.

I’m pleased to introduce our 2020 employees of the year: Supervisor Darrell Chen and security guard Robert Bruce.

You may notice a change from previous years when we acknowledged only one employee. This year we decided that it was important to ensure that a member of our leadership team also got the nod for their outstanding work.

In Darrell’s case, his management of a seven-person security team throughout the pandemic at GE’s Markham facility was nothing short of remarkable. Not that we’d expect anything different. Over his four-year career with Wincon, Darrell’s communication skills, leadership and problem-solving abilities have set the standard for others to follow. COVID may have put Darrell to the test, but he stepped up and responded to every challenge.

Wincon Darrell Chen 1

“Over the past year, we had to find different ways to provide safety and security,” he says. “We had to train additional guards, work with the EHS and occupational safety committees at GE, reinforce masking policies and work to develop methods to efficiently screen employees and delivery people every day. Our team is always great at communication and has a positive attitude, so by being proactive and planning for different workplace situations, we were able to make a tough situation as seamless as possible for our client.”

By keeping up the spirits of his team and showing appreciation for their work, Darrell reminded us all that it’s possible to turn a challenging situation into one for growth and development.

Wincon Robert Bruce 1

Our 2020 Guard of the Year Robert Bruce showed the same willingness to step up and adapt, but in a very different setting over the past year. As a guard at some of Etobicoke’s larger condominium towers, Robert had a front-row seat as the move to remote work took centre stage during the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown. Suddenly, thousands of residents were working—and both caring for and teaching their children—from home. Access to everything from building amenities to the neighbourhood grocery store was instantly restricted.

Even as tensions ran high, Robert met residents with his trademark smile and pleasant demeanour and was able to make their day a little bit brighter simply by doing his job well. Efficiency was key.

“At a certain point we had to start screening people for COVID-19 when they entered the building, but due to the volume of residents coming in and out—not to mention parcel or food delivery people and visitors—we needed to process people as quickly as we could,” Robert recalls. “Adjusting to that was a challenge.”

Wincon Robert Bruce 2

That meant going to extraordinary lengths such as conducting temperature checks and even calling residents to pick up food deliveries in the lobby as part of the condo’s coronavirus protocols. Through it all, Robert’s ability to anticipate both the condo property manager and residents’ needs, and to address potential issues before they arose, proved the difference.

On behalf of the entire leadership team here at Wincon, I’d like to congratulate Darrell and Robert for this achievement and thank them for their exemplary work. And while I’ve said it before, it’s worth reiterating that our entire team has gone above and beyond throughout the COVID-19 crisis. If I had to choose a word to sum up my feelings about our performance as a company, it would be: proud.

Proud that we’ve confronted one of the most difficult challenges of our generation and managed to succeed. Proud that we’ve actually improved our service offering in the face of some very big obstacles. And proud that our clients and industry partners were able to rely on us to meet their needs, no matter the circumstances.

As we progress further into 2021, I only have one more thing to add: Let’s keep up the great work together!

IS YOUR BUSINESS INTERESTED IN SECURITY GUARD SERVICES?

FILL OUT OUR QUOTE FORM AND ENJOY A CONSULTATION WITH US.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security

The proliferation of condominium properties across the Greater Toronto Area in the past 20 years is truly staggering. Hundreds of thousands of units have been added to Toronto’s housing supply since the 1960s when legislation allowed for this new form of homeownership and communally-minded approach to building upkeep.

Of course, the task of keeping the towering, often expansive communities in the sky operating in good condition is the responsibility of condominium property managers. These unsung heroes are responsible for everything from managing maintenance-related issues—think elevator repairs and snow plowing—to hiring the security firms that guard a property around the clock. But as Armand Conant, the former president of the Canadian Condominium Institute explains in a recent blog for the Remi Network, an acute shortage of trained and qualified condo property managers is raising concerns for many in the residential property industry:

Ontario has more than 11,700 condominium corporations. While a good number are self-managed – most are managed by professional management.

That said, there are currently about 2,500 licensed managers, 1,500 of which are General Licensees, and an estimated 300 of these are in upper management and do not manage specific buildings. This then means that there are only about 1,200 General Licensees for thousands of existing corporations. And with more condos coming on stream at a fast pace – the talent crunch is only intensifying

As Conant notes, the Condominium Management Services Act, which took effect in late 2017, requires condominium property managers and condo security companies to be licensed. That involves taking four mandatory courses and obtaining two years of experience before being designated as a ‘general licensee.’ Managers must also pay an annual fee to maintain their license. The legislation has introduced stricter guidelines and qualification requirements before an individual can take on this important—and often highly complex—role.

He suggests several tactics to ease the shortage, including educating unit owners and the condo industry / condo security companies at large as to the crucial role that managers play in “protecting the building, enhancing the market value of units, and in helping in improving the condominium community.” He also suggests working to boost and maintain higher managerial compensation rates and focusing on recruitment to attract more young people to the industry as retirement rates surge.

Of course, we also can’t forget that experienced property managers with the right expertise are a vital resource in helping to guide a condominium’s board of directors—who are typically resident volunteers with no experience in this area—on best practices to reduce legal liability.

When he mentions ‘protecting the building,’ Conant touches on another key point that many overlooks. Condo property managers and condo security companies are responsible for a building’s security as mentioned above, and it’s in that area that ample experience is crucial. As a starting point, hiring an experienced individual who can juggle the many requirements of effective property management is an essential component for ensuring the safety of a property and its residents. Security personnel are typically the first line of defense in managing everything from emergencies to maintenance issues, so being able to liaise with—and deploy—guards in an effective way is important to delivering an optimal security outcome.

Condo security companies like Wincon will keep your building and tenants safe.

This acute property manager shortage highlights another potential vulnerability in the property-management process: effective security firm recruitment.

Property managers with the right experience and expertise will have the know-how to carefully recruit, vet, and select experienced security companies with the right skill set to best protect their property and assets. That’s especially important when a condo or rental building’s population requires security staff with the right touch to provide effective customer service—think buildings that cater to seniors, as one example.

It’s even more essential when we consider that not all security firms are created equal. While many will have staff with experience patrolling low-rise properties, for instance, they may not have professionals with the expertise to manage the needs of one of Toronto’s many new ultra-high-rise condos. As we’ve noted in previous blogs, these soaring communities in the sky come with a unique set of challenges, from emergency evacuation procedures to far more complex maintenance and customer-relations requirements. The concierge service component across these properties is often as important as traditional guard services, particularly in buildings that cater to well-heeled, discerning residents. Choosing the right condo security company can have a direct impact on livability and even occupancy rates. The same holds true for commercial properties, where effective management can make or break a property owner’s reputation and a portfolio’s bottom-line performance.

Lastly, increased turnover in the property manager ranks—a common occurrence when professionals are in short supply and both stress and demand prompt individuals to frequently change employers—will only further complicate matters for residents and property owners going forward.

That’s why it’s important to take the property manager shortage seriously and take immediate steps to address the issue. Doing so will deliver long-term benefits across the commercial and residential property industry, ensuring the safety of buildings and residents alike.

IS YOUR BUSINESS INTERESTED IN RETAIL LOSS PREVENTION SERVICES?

FILL OUT OUR QUOTE FORM TO LEARN ABOUT YOUR RETAIL SECURITY OPTIONS.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security

Are we living in the most secure era ever? That depends on your definition of the word and the context, but there’s no doubt that today’s unique security surveillance technology has made many of our public and private spaces far safer than in the past. From ultra HD cameras with facial recognition technology to ultra-secure biometrics, the tools that organizations have at their disposal to prevent or respond to unwelcome or emergency incidents are truly unprecedented. So much so that privacy concerns are now running up against security innovations, fueling legal and social tensions along the way.

Case in point: there is a fast-growing movement across Canada to limit the use of some advanced tools, specifically unique security surveillance cameras equipped with facial recognition software. Last month the Canadian Civil Liberties Association issued a call for a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology in a wide range of settings. While stakeholders from law enforcement officials to business and commercial property owners would make an argument for the tech’s utility, social advocates counter that the privacy trade-off is far too great at this point. Better to stall a widespread rollout until a proper legal and regulatory framework can be built to control its use.

That comes on the heels of a new Ernst and Young report indicating that COVID-19 seems to have changed Canadians’ expectations of data privacy. Fully 63 percent of survey respondents said knowing how their data was collected and stored was of prime importance, along with control over what data is being shared (57 percent), their trust in the organization sharing their data (51 percent), and knowing how their data is managed, shared and used (45 percent).

“The pandemic has ushered in significant changes that may have altered consumers’ attitudes towards data privacy, but they are unwavering about the importance of security.”

Ernst & Young

Security vs. privacy

In residential settings, those expectations are reaching new heights. Rental tenants and condominium owners alike are growing increasingly concerned that their movements are being monitored on a daily basis. In some cases, they are. Unique security surveillance systems have long kept track of the movement of people and packages across residential environments, but new technology has delivered exponential enhancements in monitoring capabilities. In the vast majority of cases, however, their deployment is intended strictly to deter crime or inappropriate behaviour. The reality is that most commercial and residential property management firms–who are dealing with a raft of new challenges related to COVID-19–lack the staff (let alone the desire) to leverage that data in ways that would be of any reasonable concern to residents.

It’s simply available as a tool to review traffic flow in case of an incident or to piece together timelines in the event of an accident. Reviewing an incident using surveillance footage is usually a key tool in preventing a similar occurrence from happening in the future. The real question that residential stakeholders need to answer is whether privacy trumps protection in residential settings.

Exterior Home Security Camera surveillance technology integration
Contact us to discuss your privacy protocols, cybersecurity and data privacy.

With license-plate recognizing cameras collecting data in parking lots and garages, and biometrics recording even more sensitive information every time residents enter a building, do new technologies cross an ethical—and even legal—line? Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, some residential communities in Canada have gone as far as to implement contact tracing and temperature monitoring (sometimes using high-tech cameras) to protect their residents and mitigate the risk of an outbreak on their premises.

The urgent circumstances of the emergency aside, will we eventually regard these health and safety measures as a step too far?

Balancing privacy and protection 

The obvious solution involves implementing an effective security strategy that balances the right to privacy with the need for protection. That means customizing tactics to suit the needs of the residential community in question, be it housed in an ultra-tall downtown tower or a densely packed rental building. Property managers are best advised to develop a series of privacy protocols that outline how personal data will be collected, stored, managed, and eventually expunged. Access to that data must be tightly controlled. And that not only means limiting the personnel who can review it, but determining how it will be stored (e.g., on a local server or in the cloud). What cybersecurity tools will be used to mitigate the risk of a breach?

The best way to ease residents’ concerns over how their data is used is to build trust and remain transparent. By communicating on a regular basis—in some cases perhaps even developing a committee comprised of management and residents that’s tasked with setting guidelines to handle that data—reviewing and revising policies as needed and then erasing that data at predetermined intervals, most residents will be comfortable with having their personal details collected and stored.

Work with your security provider or a specialized data-management consultant to start and manage this process. Handling sensitive data is best left to the experts. Rest assured, your residents will appreciate the time and attention to detail in managing their personal information.

How is your building managing security technology?

FILL OUT OUR QUOTE FORM AND ENJOY A CONSULTATION WITH US TO LEARN ABOUT YOUR RETAIL SECURITY OPTIONS.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Walk into most of Toronto’s new mid-tier or luxury condos and you’ll almost certainly be greeted at the security desk by the smile of a friendly concierge, who’s likely to offer a ‘hello,’ and ask who you’re visiting if you’re a non-resident.

There are times, however, when their attention is diverted and not focused on who’s entering and exiting the building. Sometimes a concierge is tied up with other matters, such as managing package deliveries or discussing property-management concerns with residents. Sometimes a focus on service comes at the cost of maintaining adequate and active monitoring of the building’s security.

At a time when hundreds of new condominiums have sprung up across the Greater Toronto Area with no signs of a slowdown in new development, effective security and concierge services are a must-have for any well-managed building. In many cases, 24-hour coverage is one of many tried-and-true sales propositions in a builder’s marketing toolkit—a veritable purchase prerequisite, if you will. Concierges are the face of the building, tend to emergencies relating to matters such as building maintenance issues, and provide security coverage. They’re now considered a standard building amenity.

Indeed, home buyers have come to expect round-the-clock protection for their condo, not to mention hotel-style concierge services to assist time-pressed residents with everything from package deliveries to greeting guests.

To satisfy tenants and keep them safe, it makes sense to set aside the right budget and have more than one guard at the front desk to provide the level of service that today’s condo owners expect.

Complex security needs

As one of the GTA’s leading providers of condominium security services, we deliver protection to some of the largest complexes in the area. During our client onboarding process, we assess a condo property’s security vulnerabilities and needs, then make recommendations for security coverage based on our evaluation. It’s a detailed, multi-step process that’s designed to provide condo property management firms and residents with the protection they need.

The way condos are being built today, with larger towers, more suites and several buildings that share one common area, it becomes increasingly difficult for one security guard to look after what are essentially large, vertical communities. Having buildings that have upwards of 300 to 400 suites each, also means that security personnel are required to respond to significant numbers of calls directly to residential suites. This leaves the main access points unprotected for extended periods.

That sometimes leads to the recognition that multiple security guards need to be simultaneously deployed at a property to help maintain the delicate balance between meeting the building’s security needs and catering to residents’ service expectations. Why? Because cutting corners on security inevitably results in gaps and shortcomings, particularly in luxury condos where residents tend to place a greater emphasis on the role of security guard as concierge than property defender.

Condo concierge greeting tenant at front desk
Condominium concierge services and security bring the best experience and safety to your Toronto condo.

Understaffed security desks

What we’re finding, however, is that some security providers will offer the lowest price point possible to secure a contract with a minimal staffing commitment—typically, only a single security guard at a time, when two may be necessary. In some cases that lone guard will become overwhelmed with the concierge-related demands on his or her time. Security considerations can easily fall by the wayside.

Of course, property managers and residents don’t need to choose between security and service when hiring a security firm. But they do need to allocate the appropriate budget to ensure ample coverage in both areas. For large buildings with more than 250 residents, it’s reasonable to budget enough to pay for two guards on duty at all times. They might alternate between managing tenant requests and keeping an eye on security cameras or patrolling the property, switching back and forth as necessary. The crucial aspect of balancing service and security is to ensure that your security team isn’t overwhelmed and has the time to adequately address both needs.

Failing to provide adequate security staffing can also result in major safety shortcomings in the event of an emergency such as a fire. Properly-trained guards will be able to operate building fire panels and help in executing emergency evacuation procedures. Having those resources on hand can not only help save lives, but will help mitigate the threat of legal liability in the wake of a catastrophic event.

The key point to remember is that balancing security and service in a condo is difficult at the best of times, and nearly impossible when under-staffed. To satisfy tenants and keep them safe, it makes sense to set aside the right budget and have more than one guard at the front desk to provide the level of service that today’s condo owners expect.

INTERESTED IN CONDOMINIUM CONCIERGE & SECURITY SERVICES?

FILL OUT OUR QUOTE FORM AND ENJOY A CONSULTATION WITH US TO LEARN ABOUT YOUR CONDO SECURITY OPTIONS.

Winston Stewart, founder
|Wincon Security

Of the many new business challenges that the coronavirus pandemic has created for organizations, commercial and residential security—specifically across condominium complexes—has been near the top of the list. Property managers and their security teams have been forced to work overtime to develop, implement and maintain new COVID-19 health and safety measures, develop new parcel-management protocols, manage strict building access and usage rules, and generally cope with the uncertainties of new government lockdown and social-distancing restrictions.

Condominium property managers have carried much of this new burden as they deal with a plethora of related issues. They’ve not only had to provide updated training to their in-house or outsourced security teams while investing (often hefty) sums for enhanced cleaning across their properties, they’ve faced budgetary challenges due to increased hydro and HVAC usage and mechanical wear-and-tear with more residents working from home and placing greater demand on systems and resources. Condominium boards have struggled to find a balance that allows them to keep condo fee increases under control, while balancing their books and still delivering the level of service that residents expect.

These unforeseen COVID-19 side effects are weighing heavily on condo managers, but are being managed. It’s another, seemingly benign issue, that’s creating headaches that are sure to get worse in the years ahead: online shopping (particularly over the holidays) that’s producing a flood of parcel deliveries.

Statistics Canada predicted in November that online spending was poised to break last year’s record $305 billion in e-commerce sales. As a recent CTV News article notes:

“A separate online survey of 600 adults from Google Canada in late October suggested that 70% of respondents were looking online, not in-store for holiday gifts.”

Many of those packages are ending up in condominium lobbies—and many condos are ill- or completely unequipped to cope with this influx of items. It’s not an overstatement to say that in some buildings, lobbies are turning into de facto mini-warehouses due to the sheer volume of packages being delivered. Some property managers are grappling with whether (or how) to disinfect items that enter their premises due to potential coronavirus transmission risks.

Merely accepting and storing the parcels is challenging enough, but who catalogues them? How are they secured to ensure they aren’t stolen by a resident or thief who manages to access the lobby? How are they released or distributed to residents? Is that the job of your security team? These are just a few of the pressing questions weighing on condo managers right now.

As the COVID-19 crisis carries on and retail restrictions remain in place, Canadians are going to continue that great e-retail migration. In other words, the problem won’t simply disappear as the coronavirus eventually subsides. Property managers will need to adapt further as online shopping gains added momentum in the years ahead.

That could mean making capital investments in dedicated parcel storage rooms or lobby lockers, if those spaces or amenities don’t already exist. When many buildings were constructed, there was no thought put to online shopping—e-commerce was the stuff of science fiction only a few decades ago, after all. That could necessitate collaboration between managers and their condo boards to allocate the necessary funds to build out secure storage spaces that can be locked and monitored. Another alternative that many condos have explored is working with companies such as ParcelPort, which provides outdoor (sometimes temperature-controlled) lockers to receive and store parcels. When a delivery is made, a notification goes out via text or email to the resident reminding them to pick up their item.

There are many options, but property managers need to carefully consider several other factors to ensure that this year’s flood of holiday parcels doesn’t create an unnecessary burden for them or their teams:

What level of service will you provide?—Many condominiums, particularly those that offer luxury amenities, will need to determine whether they’ll embrace full white-glove concierge parcel-management service if they haven’t already, or opt for a self-serve parcel pick-up model. For example, will building concierge or security staff deliver packages to a resident’s door? Or simply manage packages by minding them at the lobby desk? How does that level of service reflect on the condo’s brand and ability to attract/retain buyers or tenants? An enhanced concierge experience could be a resident-friendly value proposition, albeit a pricey one.

Is your security team up to the task?—Wincon guards are trained with customer service—and the finer points of delivering a true concierge experience—in mind, but not all security firms provide that same level of training. In-house security staff, may not have that expertise either. Assess the situation to determine whether your guards are trained to accept, catalogue, manage and distribute parcels—and if not, be prepared to offer that important training.

What about food?—Parcels are one thing, but with restaurants closed in many areas, an increasing number of residents are using meal delivery services. Residents want their dishes hot and ready to eat without delay. Do you have processes in place to maintain building security, while also ensuring residents receive their meals in a timely fashion, all so their foodie-friendly expectations are met?

Who accepts liability?—The issue of lost or stolen parcels creates significant risk for condominium property managers. They can face costly liability if they accept packages that don’t make it to their rightful buyers. If those happen to be items such as fancy jewellery or expensive electronics, for example, the problem of lost or stolen goods could get very expensive very quickly. This means that, in effect, building security teams will now be required to develop and implement what amounts to loss-prevention strategies, or potentially ask residents to sign waivers that shield property management from liability. Carrying extra liability insurance may also be necessary. Work with your lawyer to design and implement a strategy that’s customized to the needs of the property and its residents.

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Winston Stewart, President and CEO

It goes without saying that 2020 is a year that many of us will be glad to forget, just as we look forward to a socially distanced and happy holiday with loved ones. Indeed, the coronavirus pandemic has challenged everyone from individual Canadians and healthcare professionals to business owners and bureaucrats in ways that we couldn’t have imagined as recently as early March. But the many struggles of the COVID-19 crisis have also reaffirmed our strength and resilience as a country. In the face of adversity, we adapted and managed, even as we continue to mourn the many lives lost and the scores of businesses brought down by the ensuing economic disruption.

The security industry has not been immune to the pandemic’s harsh economic impact. Companies large and small have reeled as affected sectors such as hospitality, travel and retail were forced into shutdown mode or were suddenly required to scale back business in ways that immediately lessened the need for security coverage. But I’m proud to say that through it all, Wincon Security has managed to not only navigate these stormy waters, but thrive.

The reason, of course, is because we’ve built incredible partnerships with our many clients. Their loyalty and support has been pivotal to Wincon’s success for more than 26 years, and in hard times, they’ve remained by our side. We’re grateful for the opportunity to protect their people, property and assets, and we can’t wait to see how we can find new ways to meet their security needs in the years ahead. The push to constantly improve is a core value, one that we embrace and also consider a responsibility that we simply won’t take for granted—it will continue to drive us to deliver even better service to our customers long after this pandemic has passed.

Case in point: We made significant investments to upgrade our technology infrastructure this year, while also working to enhance our employee training and development programs. We believe that delivering effective security solutions is about far more than doing the basics. In most cases, our security personnel are not only frontline representatives of Wincon Security, but also of our clients’ brands—be they retailers, commercial property managers, or any company in between. Their work on-site can significantly impact that brand experience, which is why we constantly strive for new ways to enhance our team’s customer service skills with real-world, situational training.

Of course, helping our customers succeed means staying at the forefront of new technology reshaping our industry. We’ve continued to research the latest in security software and hardware from facial-recognition cameras to advanced biometric systems that could have applications across both commercial and residential properties. That work is ongoing as we enhance our organizational commitment to research and development, which includes enhancing our own back-end technology infrastructure—a critical investment that enabled much of our administrative staff to work remotely during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, none of our success would be possible were it not for the tireless dedication, professionalism and hard work of our team members. At the pandemic’s peak, they put themselves in higher-risk public settings to ensure that our clients’ properties and people were kept safe and secure. They neither complained nor refused the challenge. Instead, they made it to work each and every day with an attitude that exemplified the very best that Wincon Security has to offer.

To better protect them, we recently implemented a new Whistleblower Program that provides a mechanism to report everything from sexual harassment to any form of unwelcome behaviour experienced while on the job. We’re committed to providing a safe, welcoming and fruitful workplace experience—and we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that our company culture isn’t negatively impacted by unacceptable behaviour. Our whistleblower directive to employees is simple: If you see something, say something.

So, as we look back on 2020 and raise a glass with the promise of a better 2021 ahead, I’d like to take the opportunity to wish you and your family a happy holiday and a healthy New Year. While rising COVID-19 case counts remind us that difficult months still lie ahead, vaccines give us hope that a return to normal is on the horizon. This year proved that we can make it to the finish line—safely, securely, together.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

The coronavirus pandemic has reinforced a key feature of our company culture that we’ve long understood, but which became even more obvious in the face of an unprecedented and highly challenging situation: Wincon Security is driven in every way by an outstanding group of professionals. Our people are dedicated to customer service excellence and it shows in everything they do.

As I noted in our last blog , throughout the COVID-19 crisis our employees have gone above and beyond to not only do their jobs, but to take added steps to ensure the health and safety of both our clients and their colleagues in the field. We’ve witnessed countless examples of our employees going out of their way to help Wincon Security customers create a welcoming environment across their workplaces, retail outlets, manufacturing facilities—wherever they happen to be serving. After all, we believe it’s our job to not only protect people, property and assets, but to do so in a way that reflects positively on our clients’ brands. Whether that’s in a supermarket or a super-tall condominium complex, we take that responsibility to heart.

That’s why we were delighted to receive extremely positive customer service feedback about Karen Willis, one of our fantastic security professionals. Karen exemplifies the very best qualities that our team has to offer: dedication, professionalism, excellence in her work and a selfless commitment to putting a smile on the faces of the people we serve.

In this case, the client is a Markham-based property management company with an extensive portfolio of commercial buildings across the city. Karen leads the security team at one of the client’s flagship office complexes—which has been operating at a drastically reduced capacity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s worth noting that while the province-wide focus has rightly been on mitigating the public health impact of the coronavirus pandemic, an often overlooked consequence of social distancing and stay-at-home measures is the risk to unoccupied properties. An unstaffed building is a vandal or burglar’s dream target. In other words, unoccupied properties are more vulnerable now than ever.

As our site supervisor, Karen has been responsible for coordinating security coverage for the office facility, while managing our on-site team. She was also tasked with liaising directly with the property management firm’s leadership team, keeping them abreast of potential issues or emerging security vulnerabilities as their workforce maintained operations from a distance, and then after they began returning to the workplace. As the client noted in a letter of appreciation for Karen’s work:

“[Karen] was awesome and caring to our essential workers who came to work to every day. She went above and beyond to ensure the health and safety of our team members and I am personally grateful for this.

Many times clients only informed vendors when they are not satisfied with the service they are receiving.  Rarely do they make mention when things are above and beyond, so I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the excellent service we are receiving.”

Feedback such as this not only makes us extremely proud of team members like Karen, but reminds us of the importance of our work—especially during one of the most difficult periods in recent memory.

We believe that security professionals should not only fulfill their duties, but do so with a high degree of energy and engagement. With anxieties on the rise and people genuinely afraid to enter their workplaces or residences, if their first encounter is with a warm and caring security team member who can brighten their day while ensuring their safety and protection, then we believe we’ve achieved our goal as a security company.

So, on that note, we extend our gratitude to Karen Willis for her outstanding work and dedication to customer service. Now, with COVID-19 cases flaring across the Greater Toronto Area once again, we still have a great deal of work to do. I’m very confident that together—especially with employees such as Karen leading the charge—we can navigate any challenge we face and succeed as we adapt to this fast-changing business environment.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

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.

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Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security