Timely actions by many keep campus safe

Preparedness, notification and quick responses by campus community members pay off in arrest of suspect.

Personal safety on UVic’s campus is a shared responsibility—a point demonstrated by events in 2016. Looking out for each other should be an everyday occurrence. And on top of preparedness and prevention, there are times when quick thinking and rapid responses also play a key role in keeping the campus safe.

Last spring and summer, Saanich police issued community warnings in the Gordon Head and Mount Douglas neighbourhoods about a sexual assault suspect at large. Police were investigating nearly a dozen incidents where a young man exposed himself or groped women in a sexual manner on park trails and near schools. In most instances, the reports concerned a suspect on a bicycle, who then fled the scene.

As part of its response in safeguarding campus, UVic published the police warnings on MyPage for students, staff and faculty. Then on the evening of Sept. 10, a sexual assault occurred on the campus chip trail and was reported to Campus Security. Again, the suspect escaped by bicycle.

Based on the location of the assault, Campus Security responded quickly to alert the university community. By the next morning, the entire UVic campus was posted with a notice about the attack, with Campus Security contact information prominently displayed. More than 150 copies of the notice were posted on all buildings, including residences, and along running trails. University Communications and Marketing also used online notifications and social media to spread the message.

“When we identify a risk to our university community, we evaluate what type of communications we need and then work to notify everyone as quickly as we can,” says Tom Downie, director of Campus Security. “Posting notices along the trails was first among our priorities, given the risk and history of these incidents.”

During early evening that same day, a woman running along the westerly chip trail off Gordon Head Road took note of the posters as she began her run. Shortly into her exercise, the woman encountered a suspicious man who exposed himself and then rode off on a bicycle. The witness quickly called Campus Security and officers were immediately dispatched to the area.

Security officers on foot, on bicycles and in a vehicle gave chase to a suspect riding a bicycle. Security officers boxed in the suspect, who had fallen from his bike on an incline. Officers advised the man to sit on the ground and he offered no resistance. Saanich Police were called and police officers arrested a young man, without further incident.

“The posters paid off,” says Downie. “We were able to warn our campus community of a safety threat and a member of the community had the courage and foresight to call us without delay. That gave our Campus Security team the opportunity to respond quickly and effectively.”

Saanich police credit UVic with helping solve their investigation to make an arrest. “University of Victoria’s Campus Security does an excellent job at ensuring the safety of their students, faculty and staff,” says A/Sgt. Jereme Leslie. “The University of Victoria and the Saanich Police have an outstanding working relationship. The security officers quickly identified and located the suspect, then contacted us immediately.”

The suspect faces charges under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

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Keywords: student life, security

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