Step Up Student Safety!

A crackhead stabbed my roommate in the eye with a screwdriver.

Usually this statement sounds utterly unbelievable, but probably not to students at Laurier Brantford.

At around 3:30 AM on Thursday October 28, my roommate, Kobe Agusiobo, was walking through Victoria Park after getting takeout from Lonnie’s. Students here are more than familiar with the small park, often walking through it several times a day because it’s a necessary route to and from most classes.

As Kobe walked through the park, two “crackheads” – Kobe’s words, not mine – approached him. Without warning, one of them tried to stab Kobe’s face with a long screwdriver.

Luckily, Kobe managed to block most of the blow but the tip of the screwdriver jabbed his right eye. The pair also attempted to rob him but Kobe fought them off, actually beating them with his belt because he’s just that hardcore.

In most small cities, this might be considered an isolated incident perpetrated by crazy drifters. This isn’t the case in Brantford. Over the past two years, there have been nine high-profile assaults cases against students (see The Sputnik’s March 11, 2010 issue for details); one landed a student in a medically-induced coma for two days.

Keep in mind that these are only the cases where police reports were filed and the stories were covered by a newspaper. They don’t include the stories that we hear about such as the unprovoked altercations against students walking past Vegas or waiting in line at Admiral’s.

In 2007, Maclean’s magazine featured a story ranking the “most dangerous cities in Canada.” Brantford was ranked as the most dangerous city, per capita, in all of Ontario. The story subsequently received some local media attention and Laurier held a small rally outside the Carnegie Building where a few students and now-former mayor Mike Hancock denounced the article as bullshit.

This year, Maclean’s released a similar article. Brantford has lost the top spot but it’s still the second most dangerous city in the province. I haven’t noticed any media attention though; I guess the press doesn’t care about silver.

Still, whenever the question arises about student safety, we are given the same two-word solution: “Foot Patrol.” It’s featured on every syllabus and professors are coached to espouse its virtues at the beginning of each semester.

This service runs from 7 PM until 1 AM, Monday through Thursday and 7 PM until 11 PM Friday through Sunday. Students who feel uneasy about walking after dark can call Foot Patrol and, within about half an hour, they’ll get an escort home. This escort takes the form of two university students armed with a whistle and a flashlight. Unfortunately, crackheads wielding screwdrivers may prove to be immune to the whistle.

Laurier knew about Brantford’s reputation when they set up shop here ten years ago. The high crime rate that plagues this city certainly didn’t creep up overnight with a bunch of rowdy kids listening to rock music.

The university should have taken adequate security precautions.

In Waterloo, Laurier’s campus is a large chunk of land with nothing but Laurier buildings. It has constant video surveillance and a team of special constables that patrols its grounds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

This information is available on their website, which features smiling constables standing with their cruisers in the background. In contrast, Laurier Brantford’s Special Constables are only here until 2 AM Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, they are here until 12 AM and they have the weekends off.

Understandably, Laurier doesn’t publicize the latter schedule as eagerly as they do the former.

Laurier Brantford’s special constables also won’t be carrying out an investigation into my roommate’s stabbing. Apparently, Victoria Park is not considered a part of the campus and is therefore out of their jurisdiction. The fact that the small park is literally bordered by four of Laurier’s buildings, making it the de facto heart of campus, is irrelevant and inconsequential to the university.

This means that students have no refuge when walking through the park to get from the Odeon to the Carnegie building because they’re out of the university’s jurisdiction. This seems less than satisfying to say the least.

Let’s face reality; Brantford isn’t a safe city. After all, some Laurier classes are held in the basement of St. Andrew’s Church, which actually doubles as a soup kitchen and a methadone clinic. I’m sure Laurier Brantford can find the budget to increase safety measures, be it cameras, security guards, or special constables that are here seven days a week.

An increased security budget may not yield tangible results. After all, a student’s sense of safety can’t be seen or touched like the “Laurier Brantford 10th Anniversary” banners that are plastered throughout the city. However, that doesn’t mean that increased safety measures shouldn’t be tried.

Maybe the next student walking through Victoria Park won’t have my roommate’s ninja-fast reflexes and will fail to block the full force of a screwdriver aimed at his or her eye. Better security means students won’t have to fear drug-addicted muggers armed with a Phillips head.

It’s much easier for the university to explain an increased security budget than a murdered student in what is, at least geographically, the middle of campus.

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