Canadian university increases security measures

In the wake of last year's brutal sexual assault in a campus science lab, Carleton University is beefing up security.

Touting a new "culture of safety," president and vice-chancellor Roseann Runte has announced a $1.6-million investment in campus security measures.

The university ordered a comprehensive personal safety audit last fall after a 24-year-old female student was viciously beaten, tied up and sexually assaulted in a third-floor laboratory in the Steacie Building.

The assault, which occurred after midnight on Sept. 1, 2007, sent shockwaves through the university community, just as the fall semester was about to begin.

"I don't think anybody felt totally safe after the situation that occurred last year," said Runte. "One is always anxious to improve security and safety. Obviously the incidents of last year prompted us to look at it, particularly at this time."

Campus security came under fire on several occasions throughout the academic year, notably when freshman Nadia Kajouji went missing from her campus dorm room in March, sparking a frantic search for the 18-year-old Brampton girl.

Her body was found on the edge of the Rideau River six weeks later, the victim of an apparent suicide.

The university was also red-faced in January after a set of master keys went missing.

Yesterday, Len Boudreault, campus security chief, deferred questions about the sexual assault to Ottawa police, who have no suspects in the investigation.

Investigators assigned to the case were unavailable for comment.

In January, the university distributed a personal safety survey to students, staff and faculty. Of the 1,700 who responded, most said they felt safe on campus.

SAFE CAMPUS

"We felt confident going into this that we had a safe campus," said Boudreault. "I think that the work that we've done has indicated there may be some vulnerabilities, and we've all worked as a team to address those and to improve the situation for our community and our students, staff and faculty."

Carleton officials also pointed to several disturbing trends in the survey results.

The majority of female students who reported feeling unsafe on campus also said they did not know who to contact if they felt their security was being threatened.

And less than 25% of students were aware of the school's designated safe walk pathway and the Safe Spaces Program.

Runte said those numbers indicate the school needs to do more to raise awareness and increase visibility of security measures in place.

The school has complemented existing measures by adding new closed-circuit cameras, exterior emergency phones, special constables and student patrol officers.

The Steacie Building is being fitted with a swipe card entry system for after-hours use.

'SHAKEN UP'

Carleton also becomes the second Ontario university with a staff member dedicated to sexual assault education and co-ordination of support services and counselling.

"Time will tell whether or not these safety measures will actually work," said Lesley Vaage, vice-president of Carleton's grad students' association. "Obviously with the high-profile incidents that occurred last year, everyone's a little bit shaken up."

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DANGER ZONE

- Sept 1, 2007: A 24-year-old female student severely beaten and sexually assaulted by a male in a third-floor lab in Steacie Building. Her jaw is broken and shoulder dislocated.

- Dec. 6: A woman is assaulted at 5 a.m. near the Dundas House residence, on the same day women rally on campus to mark the Montreal Massacre anniversary.

- Jan. 18, 2008: Carleton issues a warning to students after a master set of maintenance keys goes missing. Locks in affected buildings are changed.

- Jan. 23: Three Carleton students are killed and two others hospitalized after their SUV is sideswiped by an OC Transpo bus. Police believe alcohol is a factor in the crash, and survivors admit to drinking at a campus pub before driving to a west-end bar.

- March 10: Nadia Kajouji, 18, reported missing by her residence roommates. Her family is notified more than 30 hours later. Her body is later discovered in Rideau River. Death an apparent suicide.

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SAFETY COURSE OF ACTION

Additional safety measures announced by Carleton University:

- 63 new CCTV cameras, bringing the total to 111.

- 48 new cameras in early September, with another eight cameras to be added in a later round of improvements (total of 167).

- 8 exterior emergency phones, rebranded "assistance phones," bringing the total to 225.

- 5 new special constables, bringing total to 25.

- 20 additional uniformed student safety patrollers, doubling last year's number.

- 60 new pedestrian light fixtures to improve campus lighting.

- Swipe card locks for after-hours entry into the Steacie Building. Other buildings are under review for similar system.

- New staff position for sexual assault education and co-ordination of all support services, including safety and counselling.

- New community safety website with regular safety reports at www.carleton.ca/safety.

- Safe pathways extended and enhanced, with 14 new signs to increase visibility.

- Pathways will have better lighting, reduced underbrush and be under 24-hour CCTV surveillance.

- New safety pocket guide indicating presence of safe pathways and safety assistance phones.

- Additional patrol bikes for campus safety officers.

- Campus awareness campaign encouraging campus safety hotline number (613-520-4444) be programmed into cellphones.


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