May 09, 2014 - 1:52 PM
KAMLOOPS – Thompson Rivers University is spending thousands of dollars on new emergency phones on campus without any metrics on use and a perpetually low crime rate.
The university has recently replaced and added 28 more two-button phones with hot lines directly to campus security or 9-1-1, bringing the total to 38—far more than several other B.C. university campuses. Yet a spokesperson says the university has barely any crime to report.
“(RCMP) don’t come here very often at all,” says Stacey Jyrkkanen, TRU’s Manager of Health and Safety. “In fact, they come here more often now to help me with emergency planning than they do for actual crime calls.”
TRU has more than double the amount of phones compared to the University of Victoria, which has 14 phones and roughly 7,000 more students. It's a similar story around the province: UBC Okanagan has 33, UBC Vancouver has 24 and UNBC has just 10.
Jyrkkanen was surprised at those numbers, but says they are being proactive in replacing existing emergency phones.
"I don’t know if you can really put a price on safety," Jyrkkanen said.
But the university won't give any price for safety, refusing to say how much they cost, though 11 of the phones sell for $2,000 to $7,000, according to the manufacturer.
The university also wouldn't share the risk assessment justifying the expenses or how often students use them.
“We don’t keep metrics on that,” says Facilities Director Les Tabata. He also declined to share security staffing levels.
At UBC Vancouver, campus security administrators keep metrics. They've seen a significant decline in use of the phones – even after a series of sexual assaults last fall.
“We’ve experienced a huge drop in the use of phones over the past four to five years. It’s a 60 per cent reduction compared to what we had five years ago,” says Barry Eccleton, director of UBC Vancouver campus security.
He says with so many students now carrying smart phones, the security phones are used less. UBC is looking at augmenting smart phones by launching an app which could connect students directly to campus security.
Seven of TRU’s new emergency phones are Code Blue pedestal phones which light up parking lots at night and provide campus security with call location, making 11 total.
Inside campus facilities, TRU will buy 21 emergency box phones, which look similar to pay phones, to update older models on campus. All emergency phones have two calling options– "info" calls security and "emergency" notifies security and RCMP. Campus security is available 24/7, but the staff is limited to observing and reporting.
The "info" option could also be used by a student looking for a safe walk across campus after dark.
Another nine pay phones featuring an emergency button can be found around campus, bringing the campus phones with emergency option total to 47.
An indoor phone remains packaged.
(GLYNN BROTHEN /InfoTel Multimedia)
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