SAIT campus safety

 (Photo by Quin Hauck/SAIT)

(Photo by Quin Hauck/SAIT)

The rate of violent crimes in Calgary has been rising, leading some Calgarians to believe the city is no longer safe. However, overall crime in the city has actually stabilized.

“As you gain life experience, you learn the importance of awareness of your surroundings. I think the biggest concern is if you live a high-risk lifestyle,” said Shane MacDonald, emergency management coordinator with SAIT security and emergency services. MacDonald previously worked as a police officer for 26 years.

Macdonald said that he sees safety on campus as parallel to that in the city.

“I think overarching this is a very safe campus, generally speaking the amount of reported incidents of overall personal safety, our numbers are really quite low,” said MacDonald.

A study commissioned by the Calgary Police Commission indicates that while Calgarians have trust in the Calgary Police Service (CPS) to maintain safety, overall there is a belief that the city is less safe.

The qualitative study took place over four weeks with more than 100 Calgarians participating in eight separate two-day online community consultations.

“Perceptions of safety are eroding [in Calgary],” was one of the major trends present in the citizen survey. Participants indicated that they believed there has been an increase in crime with Calgary’s economic downtown and changing demographics based on the media coverage available.

The study indicated that a visible CPS presence is one of five major factors affecting Calgarian’s feelings of safety. Other influences include a sense of community in neighbourhoods, bright and maintained areas, having groups of friends or acquaintances and having control over one’s surroundings.

“One of the things that we really like to support is the ears and eye for campus, it’s our demographics. We have roughly 12,000 to 14,000 students and faculty on SAIT on a day-to-day basis,” said MacDonald, explaining how the SAIT community, as a whole, helps to contribute to safety on campus.

“That means if you see something, then report it,” said MacDonald.

SAIT security is striving to ensure people are comfortable reporting incidents of concern and encourage staff and students to be aware of events taking place on campus. Security is working to maintain a place in the SAIT community by attending different events such as, the SAITSA Expo, Orientation and more.

“What we’ve done is we’ve really tried to integrate our campus security program into some of the front facing exposure opportunities,” said Macdonald.

Safety priorities were established in the commission study in an effort to identify the issues that need to be addressed to improve the perception of Calgary as a safe city.

“Safety priorities reflect perceptions of how Calgary is growing and changing,” said the study identifying six key areas of focus; gangs, drugs, person crimes, youth prevention and community based programs, family and domestic violence, social disorder, property crime and traffic offences.

MacDonald said that some of the ways to stay safe as a whole is to avoid walking alone, using unfamiliar shortcuts, being aware of one’s surroundings, walking in well-lit areas, locking one’s car and closing windows, use exits closest to one’s transportation, watch valuables, know where to get help and report strange incidents.

One of the ways SAIT security is addressing the issue of drugs on campus is carrying nasal spray for opioid overdose victims. The nasal spray acts similar to a naloxone kit in that it helps to ensure people are able to potentially survive their overdose. No security guards have had to use the spray yet.

The study stated that the force will be looking to actively engage with Calgary communities to improve public dealings with the organization and working with the media to maintain transparency. Participants shared both positive and negative stories about experiences that shaped their view of CPS officers.

“I think this is an extremely safe campus and I’m voicing that from my experience prior to working at SAIT as a police officer with 26 years experience,” said MacDonald.

SAIT security offers a safe escort that can be requested in person at the campus security office or over the phone. Security can be reached through the non-emergency number 403-284-8530. In the case of an emergency call 911 and the emergency security number 403-284-0000.

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