A campus program that harnesses the power of technology to alert students about on-campus security issues is passing its one-year anniversary this month.
The Ryerson University Security Watch program, administered by the Environmental Health and Safety and Security department, emails students about assaults, robberies and incidents of menacing behaviour. The program was launched last year as part of an initiative to keep students and staff safe by keeping them more informed.
In August and September 2012, the university reported five sexual assaults that occurred on different parts of the school campus. The incidents were posted on the Ryerson website, which some critics say is not an effective way of informing the entire student body.
“Sending the notices out to all Ryerson email addresses has allowed our entire community to receive information at the same time,” said Tanya Fermin-Poppleton, manager for Security and Emergency Services. “We no longer are relying on department representatives, as an example, to distribute the notices among the members of their department.”
From the program’s inception on Sept. 27 of last year, Ryerson has sent out 30 security emails to the student and staff community. The majority of alerts are for assault and sexual assault, and men and women appear to be victimized equally. October 2012 was the month when the most crime occurred on campus.
The program has received mixed reviews from students with some saying they appreciate the raised awareness, but leaving others feeling as though it’s too little too late.
“They are helpful, but at the same time it’s a bit scary because even though they send out these alerts this stuff keeps happening,” said third-year Julia Hojsan. “The fact that they are doing something is good, but it is scary.”
Keeping students vigilant is one of the benefits of the emails, said Shanth Logan, a third-year student who didn’t have the program in his first year.
“It’s good for young people because it helps them stay alert,” he said.
However, others are taking a harder line and citing the emails as a source of annoyance rather than information.
“Tell them to stop,” said second-year Kosta Haxihtasi. “It’s annoying. It’s raising awareness after something happens. How is it going to prevent anything by sending an email? It’s not helpful.”
It’s a question that many are asking. With a one- to two- day delay between a report or complaint made and an alert sent out to students the gap between the incident and information is long. Some students are also questioning the method of delivery and its effectiveness.
“I don’t like the email because you have to click another link and sometimes you don’t have time to go looking,” said Hojsan. “I would rather it all be there in a text message so we know what it is and what happened.”
Looking ahead to the future of the program and starting on year two, “we are constantly evaluating our initiatives and while we have not made any changes yet, we are looking at adding more social media to our distribution platform,” Fermin-Poppleton said.
Until the social media aspect of the program manages to send out real-time alerts or help deter crime on campus altogether it’s up to students to be their own best security watches.
“We go to school in the middle of a big city,” says second-year student Bradley Salt. ‘Things are going to happen and it’s up to everyone to be careful.”