Trial initiative meant to keep students safe in wake of assaults at UBC
By Aidan Mouellic, Staff Writer
Recent reports of sexual violence at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the decrease in daylight hours has Douglas College taking proactive measures to keep its students safe.
The SkyTrain Safer Walk program, which began at the New Westminster campus on November 4, has been implemented on a trial basis until December 16. The evening-only service is being offered at the New Westminster campus from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. during the school week. During that period, a Paladin security officer, who will be equipped with a baton-style flashlight and a two-way radio linked to the Douglas College security offices, will lead groups to the nearby New Westminster SkyTrain station every half hour.
Douglas College is also looking to implement a similar program at David Lam for a safe walk to the parking lot.
The aim of the program is to ensure the safety of Douglas College students, especially those who may feel vulnerable during the trek at night to the transportation hub at the bottom of the hill.
Douglas College has long had a safety escort program—where students and staff may request an escort to an on-campus facility—but the SkyTrain Safer Walk program is the first off-campus system.
Other colleges and universities, such as UBC, Langara College, and Simon Fraser University, all of which have larger campuses, offer similar escort programs that run year round.
The SkyTrain Safer Walk program, however, doesn’t appear to be popular with students. A Paladin security guard hired by Douglas College to staff the Safer Walk program told the Other Press that “only four or five people have had an escort in the three days since we’ve started offering them.” The security guard wished to remain anonymous.
Some students who haven’t used the service though think it’s still worth it.
A male student, who wished to be left anonymous, says that “the Safer Walk program is not very important near our busy campus, but with what’s been going on at UBC and how scared some students are now when walking alone at night, this can only breed confidence and a feeling of security. I guess that I hope it stays.”
Safety and security is everyone’s responsibility, not just that of campus security officials. Douglas College recommends that its students walk with a buddy at night, know the transit schedules, and have their keys ready when approaching their vehicle. More detailed security and safety tips are available on the Douglas College website at www.douglas.bc.ca/safety-security/security/personal-safety-tips.html.
The SkyTrain Safer Walk program is still in its infancy and being tested for viability. A report on the effectiveness of the SkyTrain Safer Walk program is expected in the new year.