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Safety in numbers: Concordia Student Safety Patrol

by Anna Bratulic

CSS patrolOn cold wintry nights, the Loyola Campus can seem rather vacant and isolated, perhaps a little too quiet for some. There may be the occasional car driving down Sherbrooke St., a couple of people making their way across campus, or the reassuring appearance of the last shuttle bus waiting to take students back downtown.

It may be comforting to know that volunteers at the Concordia Student Safety Patrol (CSSP) -- considered the "eyes and ears" of the Security Department -- do the rounds of both campuses every weekday evening from six to midnight. Equipped with a flashlight and a walkie-talkie, they always walk in pairs and wear bright red jackets with the words "C S S Patrol" written in big white letters on the back.

"Our sole focus is to be visible to students, and through our visibility promote a sense of campus security," said Pavlina Soussoudis, one of the co-ordinators of the CSSP, who has been involved with the group for four years. "Our role is not to pull someone out of a drunken brawl at Reggie's. The point is to act defensively, not offensively. Patrollers are not there to kick the shit out of people."

The non-interventionist policy of the CSSP is stressed during the compulsory training sessions prospective patrollers must take. Training includes an interview, some self-defense instruction and an orientation session during which, Soussoudis hopes, aggressive "Rambo types" are weeded out.

They would be disappointed anyway, because Concordia is relatively quiet, with the bulk of security issues dealing with opportunity thefts. During one of her patrols, Soussoudis remembers passing by an unlocked office in the Henry F. Hall Building in which a professor's desk was topped with a stack of written exams. She immediately reported it to Security.

According to statistics provided by the Security Department, in 1999, there were 272 reported cases of theft (of both university and personal property) and 12 reported cases of assault.

"For an urban university, we're pretty safe," said Darren Dumoulin, Interim Operations Officer in the Security Department at the Sir George Williams Campus.

"If you compare us to UQAM, for example, where there are a lot of skinheads in the area, we don't have people shooting up on the stairs. We [at the SGW campus] have problems more on nights and weekends, with people coming out of the bars drunk."

Since February 1994, when the CSSP began in response to concerns raised by students about safety at the Loyola Campus, students have been able to call the group's dispatch line to request to be escorted home.

"There was a girl who was followed when she was going home," said Liliane Gondo, a co-ordinator who will begin training with the RCMP in March. "After that, she called here and we would walk her to her place. Often when patrollers are out there introducing themselves, that's when people will say, 'OK, we'll walk with you.' We've walked guys, too."

Even though almost an equal number of men and women volunteer (about 45 altogether), Soussoudis has no problem with two women patrolling together. "We want to dispel the notion of 'big brother' taking care of 'little sister.' It's about security in numbers, and not so much about men protecting women. I want to challenge the stereotype that having two women [patrolling] isn't safe, but having two men is."

Anyone wishing to use the services of the CSSP can call their dispatch line at 848-7533. Prospective volunteers can call 848-8700 (Loyola office) or 848-8600 (SGW office).

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