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Long-term plan issued for UBC safety after sex assaults

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

The University of British Columbia. (PHOTO CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

The University of British Columbia. (PHOTO CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

A report on improving safety at the University of B.C.’s Point Grey campus recommends better lighting, cameras at heavily travelled areas and better communication.

The campus working group was formed after a series of sex assaults — which RCMP suspect to be the work of one person — targeted young women on the way back to their residences at night over many months in 2013.

Christine O’Fallon of the Women Transforming Cities organization said it’s more effective to prevent crime than it is to punish it.

“Students, women, bus drivers, Transit Police and more did not want the responsibility of safety to continue to fall on the shoulders of the women and the girls who might be attacked,” she wrote by email.

Matthew Duguay of UBC’s Alma Mater Society said the report complements security measures already in place since the sex attacks. Though the RCMP have not caught a suspect, he maintained the campus is safe.

Those measures, which also include the posting of a security guard at every campus residential area, are expected to remain in place until summer.

The report, which is open for feedback until Feb. 25, aims to outline a long-term plan to make the campus safer.

The group found UBC had few outdoor security cameras and also asserted their presence does little to deter crime. However, the university is seeking input on whether it should add cameras to main thoroughfares to monitor people coming in and out of campus.

Duguay said lighting is one area that could help vastly. In 2012 and 2013, two main thoroughfares — University Boulevard and Main Mall — had their lights upgraded.

He said another potential area for lighting upgrades would be the Lower Mall residential area, particularly in the area outside Totem Park — where one of the assaults took place.

Additionally, communication is a major concern for students, he said.

While RCMP and university officials were notified immediately after last year’s assaults, the student society was not notified until two days afterwards — despite their role in overseeing the Safewalk program that was instantly flooded with calls.

“We essentially became aware of the situation through the media or through the extreme demand placed on Safewalk,” Duguay said.

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