Residence security has surfaced as a major issue following this month’s disturbance at HUB mall which claimed three lives.
Over the years, University of Alberta Protective Services (UAPS) has received numerous reports of incidents which range from petty theft and vandalism to more serious felonies such as assaults and break-ins of student residences.
One recent incident — an armed robbery — took place in February when a male carrying a knife threatened someone and took their wallet. There have also been countless reports of trespassers, since HUB Mall is open to the public at all hours.
“HUB security was an issue even before (the shooting) happened. The Residence Halls Association last year noted a number of concerns to Residence Services about ways they could make sure those strangers aren’t able to access that building late at night; to make sure that they feel safe in their own home,” said Students’ Union President Colten Yamagishi.
Some of those proposed changes included a proxy card system for student-only-access after certain hours or security cameras, although they come with a hefty price tag. Residences such as Lister Hall have measures like a student check-in system to ensure that everyone who comes into the residence is signed in.
However, not everybody agrees that security is a pressing concern. Vice-President (Student Life) Saadiq Sumar stressed how the shooting was not a student-targeted event, and that students should feel like their residences are a safe place.
“I don’t think there’s any question though about residence security. Residences are very safe,” said Sumar.
However, he did note that some aspects such as access to entrances were issues that may need to be addressed.
RHA president Kaibree Drake also said that the RHA has been advocating for increased security in HUB for over a year.
“We know that none of the changes we’ve suggested could have prevented (the shooting) in any way shape or form,” she admitted.
“But essentially, we feel the residence has undergone a lot of emotional trauma, and that could have been alleviated quite a bit if the had just had locks on the stairwell doors.”
Drake added that there has been talk of installing cameras in HUB, which could decrease vandalism and theft.
“There’s no concrete plan as of yet, but we’re pushing for (one). So far, the administration has been very cooperative and receptive,” Drake said.
“We’re not going to go in with guns blazing — we understand it’s not something that can be done overnight.”
The other aspect of HUB security being addressed is the emergency notification system, which has brought concerns of its overall effectiveness when it did not notify students until three hours after the shooting took place.
Carl Amrhein explained that police intervention was one reason for the slow response, where they took control of the situation and told the university not to send out the notification until they had completed a sweep of HUB to ensure there was no further risk.
“There’s a lot of criticism, and we’ll deal with it, but this is one o’clock in the morning. The police are on site, they have 3 dead people and one badly wounded person, they don’t know who’s done the shooting, where they are; Most everybody is safely locked in their rooms and in bed,” Amrhein said.
“We didn’t want to say anything that caused people to start running around until we knew,” he said.
Amrhein mentioned that a full review of the response was about to get underway, with every aspect such as communication protocols being looked into to help better prepare for any emergencies that might occur in the future.
“I know there are students that felt concerned that they weren’t alerted in a timely manner, so that’s definitely something that I think we can address,” said Yamagishi.
“If we find get a way to get everyone informed about what’s happening and to make sure that it’s also a safer environment, I think that’s what everyone is wishing for.”
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