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Spotlight on Marc Dunn and Cameron Switzer

Spotlight, Community Safety and Security

By Marc Dunn and Cameron Switzer on improving campus safety by partnering to provide collaborative and fulsome support services to individuals and families in our community.

Marc Dunn and Cameron Switzer.

This month, we sat down with Marc Dunn and Cameron Switzer, two members of Ryerson’s Community Safety and Security team to learn about their participation in Furthering Our Community by Uniting Services (FOCUS), a multi-organizational, multi-sector partnership that provides immediate coordinated support and aims to reduce crime, victimization and harm. Participating agencies include Toronto Police Service 51 Division, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board, St. Michael’s Hospital-MCIT, Covenant House, Streets to Homes and many more.

Any of the partnering organizations can bring forward to the group the case of an individual, couple or family with acute elevated risk who need intervention and support in a coordinated way. By participating, Ryerson is able to coordinate support for members from our community who may otherwise not be able to access these resources.

“We recognize that the people involved in security incidents on campus are real people with real needs. Often their actions on campus are because they’re lacking access to support and resources they need. Our approach is not to just shoo them away, but whenever possible to work with them to get the help they need. I’m really proud of the work our team does with FOCUS.” - Denise Campbell

How FOCUS works: Three case studies

Case study 1: Individual with substance abuse and mental health issues

Community Safety and Security received multiple complaints about an individual who regularly caused disturbances on campus. From working with them, we knew there were both acute and chronic substance abuse and mental health issues. Ryerson helped coordinate services for them through FOCUS—this person is in a much better place now and these incidents have been significantly reduced.

Case study 2: Individual barred from campus and frequently returning to cause disturbances

An individual who was known to Ryerson Security who had been barred from campus was continuing to cause disturbances and safety concerns. Through relationship-building, FOCUS was offered as a possible support service. While the individual initially declined support, they eventually changed their mind and allowed Ryerson to coordinate this. Security ran into them recently and they confirmed they are now employed and no longer involved in their past criminal activities.

Case study 3: Clearly distressed individual causing concern

There was a clearly distressed individual frequently on campus who caused concern for community members encountering them. The individual approached Community Safety and Security and identified that they were involved in criminal activities because of an abusive relationship they were struggling to leave. Through FOCUS, they were provided with a number of supports that enabled them to relocate, reconnect with family and return to school.

“FOCUS provides an opportunity for us to sit at a table with a number of service providers, including the City of Toronto, United Way, housing agencies, victim services, Toronto Police Service and more. While we’re not a service provider in the same way, we interact with our community regularly and are able to notice patterns and trends. This allows us to highlight cases where coordinated intervention may be the best path forward. ” - Cameron

As a crime prevention and community engagement specialist, Marc delivers much of the training offered by the department, and meets regularly with victims of crime on our campus to provide support and resources. Working as a risk assessment specialist, Cameron focuses on safety planning and conducts violence risk assessments.

Having both worked in a variety of roles at Ryerson from patrol staff to medical responder and more, Marc and Cameron are familiar with the landscape of Ryerson’s campus and its community. By developing relationships with our community members, frontline staff are able to notify Marc and Cameron when they think someone may be eligible for the program. Marc and Cameron then meet with the individuals to assess if their situations fit the criteria of FOCUS. The goal is to identify situations where there is acutely elevated risk, where either chronic conditions have accumulated or new circumstances now mean that crisis is imminent.

After meeting with the individuals to better understand their background and gain their consent, Marc and Cameron bring the case forward to FOCUS. All information is de-identified and together the agencies decide who is best suited to take part in an intervention.

“We need to think about why people are frequenting our campus. For example: it’s 3 a.m. and someone is seeking shelter in one of our buildings in winter and we can see they’re underdressed. It’s not a good solution to tell them they can’t be here but not provide any real solutions or services. FOCUS has led to strengthened relationships with support services in the area.” - Marc

As Cameron and Marc both stressed, FOCUS is in line with Community Safety and Security’s mandate to keep Ryerson’s campus safe. It provides a valuable avenue to look at root causes to better serve our community. It’s been empowering for the frontline staff to be able to take more time, to learn more about people and their backgrounds, knowing that there are avenues for continued support or intervention.

By building these relationships with community partners, the frontline team can in turn create positive relationships with our community members and experience a positive side to work that can often feel daunting. Even if a scenario doesn’t necessarily meet the threshold to be reviewed by FOCUS, the team has a longer list of numbers and referring services they can call on or refer to. They’ve also been able to coordinate campus walk-throughs and outreach with support agencies, which has been extremely valuable.

“It provides a morale boost for staff and sets an example for frontline security to know this model can be successful; that there are ways to do this type of work respectfully and successfully. It’s an example that’s especially valuable for security staff who may plan to go on to social work, policing, corrections or paramedics,” echoed Cameron.

“The societal issues that impact Ryerson cannot be solved by one institution or support service alone. Part of being a city builder is working with other organizations to support community members, whether they’re Ryerson-affiliated or not.” - Denise Campbell

We’re located at the busiest intersection in Canada and being in the heart of downtown Toronto means that the societal issues surrounding us can impact our community as well.

Marc and Cameron joined FOCUS in 2018 and have seen real results on some of the cases they’ve presented. Both shared that they can’t emphasize enough the value of participating in a program like this and how well it fits with Ryerson’s values. By taking a holistic approach, they’re able to provide safety and security services that are respectful, resource-driven and that create real change.

What’s one thing you can’t live without in the morning?

Cameron

Coffee

Marc

Tea or iced coffee in the summer

What do you like doing during your commute to work?

Cameron

I listen to music from the time I’m out the door until I step foot in the office

Marc

Listen to a documentary or motivational speaker

Favourite vacation spot?

Cameron

The East Coast

Marc

Oaxaca, Mexico

Any pets at home?

Cameron

One cat and one dog

Marc

Two cats and eight fish

Android or iPhone?

Cameron

Android

Marc

Android