On patrol with campus security
Every campus needs security. A campus that’s fully integrated into the downtown core is another kind of challenge. To better understand the Ryerson campus, I took a stroll through campus with Edward Cruz and D.J. LeGrow, two members of Ryerson’s Security and Emergency Services team.
“When it’s Orientation Week,” I say, “are you like: ‘Okay, it’s game time.’”
“The first week of school is always busier, because everyone is new to the area,” says LeGrow.
“We’ll get people coming from rural areas, and they’ll come to Ryerson… literally the heart of downtown Toronto,” says Cruz.
“It’s a bit of a culture shock for them,” says Cruz, “so during those first two weeks, we get out there with pamphlets and cards and talk to everyone we can to let them know the things we have in place to make everyone as safe as we can. Particularly residence move-in days: we stand out in the courtyards, walk through the lobbies, and talk to the parents and students to reassure them that they’re going to be safe.”
Security staff members patrol the campus in 12-hour shifts, from 8 a.m./p.m. to 8 p.m./a.m. LeGrow and Cruz take me to some of the areas they pay special attention to: the steps of the SLC, the Gould/Victoria intersection, the southern end of the Gould Street rink, and the Quad. “The Quad’s a hotspot at night,” says LeGrow. “Up here, you’ll get people smoking and drinking.”
“I get the sense that smoking and drinking are the most common issues?” I ask
“I believe theft is probably the most common,” says Cruz. “The most active buildings—Kerr Hall, Podium, the library. There’s a spot in the Podium next to the washroom that has a couple of tables where people are studying. People say, ‘Oh, the washroom’s right here, I’ll just get up, go to the washroom.’ They’re gone for two minutes—laptop, bags, all gone.”
There is no set route for security—predictability would be conducive to crime—and no two days are identical. “It’s something different every day,” says LeGrow. “You get to help people, you get to interact with people. I want to be a police officer, so this is exactly what I want to be doing.”
The nature of the job involves interacting with the many types of people who might pass through a downtown campus, including those at their lowest ebb. “People who are homeless who we find sleeping on campus at night, we have to ask them to leave, but we try to provide them with services to find shelter,’ says LeGrow. “We carry around cards with phone numbers of shelters in the area.”
“We’ve had a lot of heart-to-heart situations with a lot of different people from off-campus,” says Cruz. “It’s good when you have those situations with people and you don’t interact with them after that. It’s weird to say, ‘I’m glad I’ve never seen you again,’ but when the way I’ve seen you is at rock bottom, and I don’t see you out on the streets again, it’s usually a good sign.”
“Sometimes they’ll come back around,” says LeGrow, “and say, ‘Yeah, I moved out of town, I finally got a place up north…”
“Yeah, or, ‘I’ve reconciled with my family, I’m back home with my parents again…”
“That’s the thing we try to explain with younger kids. We say, ‘If you have family, honestly, go back home, try to build a life for yourself, and then go out on your own.’ When you’re 16, 17 years old, don’t have a job, and you come to Toronto, it’s expensive to live.”
An hour has passed, we’ve made it all the way around campus, and Cruz and LeGrow are going to do it all over again. Before leaving, I ask them what they like best about the job.
“I live 40 minutes north,” says LeGrow. “When I come down here, it’s almost a culture shock. Now I’m learning so much about different genders, different types of religions, different cultures.”
“I like being able to interact with a variety of different kinds of people,” says Cruz. “It’s nice having conversations with everyone from every walk of life you can imagine. It opens your eyes. You can live downtown, you can visit downtown, but when you actually interact with everyone you meet downtown. I think that’s the environment specifically at Ryerson as well. Ryerson’s a very progressive school.”
Ryerson offers a variety of security and emergency services, including a Walk Safe Program (which provides a protected escort 24/7 to any location on the Ryerson campus), safety talks, and defence programs. For more information, visit Security and Emergency Services.