Keeping the peace on campus

In part two of our series, we spend a night on patrol with Queen’s Campus Security and learn about suspicious behaviour, the Emergency Response Centre and the difference between Kingston Police and Campus Security

David Wilkinson and Saad Rashid both spend seven hours on patrol for Campus Security every Wednesday night. Together, the two check locks on campus buildings and keep an eye out for suspicious behavior.
David Wilkinson and Saad Rashid both spend seven hours on patrol for Campus Security every Wednesday night. Together, the two check locks on campus buildings and keep an eye out for suspicious behavior.
Campus Security supervisor Murray Skeggs works the night shift, 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. four days a week.
Campus Security supervisor Murray Skeggs works the night shift, 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. four days a week.


Jan. 26: Caf manager • Today: Campus security • Feb. 2: Karen Hitchcock

As a kid, I used to pretend to be an undercover superhero fearlessly fighting crime.

On Jan. 17, I got as close to that dream as I ever will, when I patrolled the University with Campus Security. I arrived at the Emergency Response Centre (ERC) in Fleming Hall at 7:30 p.m. I was on patrol with David Wilkinson and Saad Rashid.

Before we go, Wilkinson hands me a reflective jacket: the next-best thing to donning a cape.

Each night, two-person patrols walk campus from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. At each building, Wilkinson or Rashid checked the outside doors and sometimes walked around inside.

Wilkinson graduated from St. Lawrence College’s law and security administration program, and did a placement with Campus Security last March.

“I did a little project for them and I guess they were impressed,” he said. “I had experience and I knew their system, so they offered me the job.”

Rashid, Sci ’08, is an international student from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This is his first year working for Campus Security.

“It was really nice before the snow,” he said. “My experience at Campus Security has been pretty good.”

Rashid’s shift is every Wednesday night. He said the seven-hour patrol routine is a calming contrast to student life. “If you’re studying all day inside, it’s nice to just walk around outside; you’re not really thinking about anything,” he said.

“None of the guys are too weird.”

Rashid said the job pays well too: $9 an hour, and more for experienced staff. Employees get a 50-cent raise every 2,000 hours they work. Wilkinson is also part of the Off-Campus Response Team, which answers noise complaints from the Ghetto. The response team visits the house in question with pamphlets detailing noise bylaws and consequences.

“We say, ‘Heads up, there’s a noise complaint,’ ” Wilkinson said.

“We tell them we’ll be by in 10 minutes to see how things are going.”

If the problem continues, Wilkinson said, the neighbours usually call police to complain. Every so often on my patrol, we radio to the Emergency Response Centre to check in.

After a bit of cajoling, I’m allowed to give it a shot. They hand me the walkie-talkie—sorry, the radio—and show me what to do. “Alpha to ERC, we’re 10-8 building 116, over.”

After a moment, the response comes crackling back: “10-4.” My life is now complete.

Wilkinson and Rashid said they’ve both seen their share of action on the job.

“I was with the supervisor who came across the theft at Jeffrey,” Rashid said.

A few weeks before the December theft of 62 computers, Rashid said his patrol came across the computer lab to find the security cords anchoring the computers cut. He said no alarms were installed to prevent another break-in.

“It’s kind of the University’s fault [the computers were stolen],” he said. Wilkinson said the patrols often get calls from people who have been locked out of their office or faculty who set off the intruder alarm. For the most part, though, they stick to the building check schedule.

“The most checks we do are in the underground parking,” he said. “It can get pretty sketchy at three, four o’clock in the morning.” I’m relieved I volunteered for the early shift.

In the event of a violent altercation, Wilkinson told me, there isn’t much Campus Security can do because of a hands-off policy. “You just radio it in, relay all the information you can,” he said.

“Just keep an eye on them.”

As we tramped around campus, I realized I had no idea what, or who, we were looking for. I asked Rashid what they watch out for.

“If they don’t look like students, if they’re looking through windows and just hanging around outside buildings,” he said. “Watch out for sketchy people.”

We head back to the ERC for a break, where I meet supervisor Murray Skeggs.

Skeggs works from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. four days straight. “I’ll go home in the morning and I have about a half-hour drive from here, so by the time I go home and get to bed it’s eight, and I’ll sleep till three,” he said.

“Then I have a few hours of family time.”

Skeggs has been working with Campus Security for six years. He said the job gives him a sense of freedom.

“Most of the time I’m out of the office and walking or driving around campus and interacting with different people,” he said.

“I don’t have any set route; I can come and go as I wish.”

I can’t help but ask: how hard is it to deal with rowdy students?

“I mean, students are students, and when they’ve had too much to drink they can be annoying, but generally I enjoy spending time with them,” Skeggs said. “I get more upset with the local non-students who try to make campus their home—homeless people looking for a warm place to stay.”

Skeggs said homeless people will sometimes try to crash in the JDUC because it’s open 24 hours.

“As long as they’re not bothering people or being a nuisance, we allow them to stay,” he said. “If they’re sleeping in the building, we move them on.”

Right now, Skeggs said Campus Security has 30 patrol staff, but they usually operate with 36 to 40.

“We need 36 people just to fill our schedule. We only ask them to work one shift per week,” he said. “Some of them end up with more.”

Campus Security’s website is advertising that it’s hiring part-time student patrols. Campus Security also operates the University lost and found, and a self-defense course for women.

Skeggs said on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Campus Security gets calls to attend to students with
alcohol intoxication or students who are causing a disturbance.

“We respond to a wide variety of calls,” he said. “When Walkhome closes down at night … if we’re not busy we take people to the downtown area as far as they need to go,” he said.

“If we’re busy, we have taxi vouchers we can give to people if we can’t walk or drive them.”

On average, Skeggs said, Campus Security gets about 10 to 15 calls per night that they need to respond to.

“We get a lot of calls we can solve over the phone or direct people to the correct department,” he said. “Tonight so far, we let three people into offices they’ve locked their keys into.” One aspect of campus I don’t know a lot about is the blue emergency lights.

“Generally we try to keep our response to under three minutes,” Skeggs said.

The exception is West Campus, which takes three to five minutes to reach, depending on the time of day and traffic.

“Of course we’re not an emergency response vehicle, so we can’t go through intersections,” he said.

Skeggs said Campus Security only works with police on issues that can’t be dealt with within the University.

“The police mostly prefer we deal with University issues at the University,” he said.

“We have a good relationship with the police.”

There isn’t much doubt as to whose jurisdiction incidents fall under, Skeggs said.

“We can only enforce laws on University grounds,” he said. “If we’re following a suspect we just try to keep them visually in our sight—let the police do their job and provide any information we can afterwards.”

Campus Security has 10 people working different shifts at the Emergency Response Centre, one of whom works full-time during the day and posts alerts online.

“We try to keep it interesting to keep people coming back to the website,” Skeggs said.

“Obviously there are things we can’t put up there, [such as] incidences where the victim has asked us to keep information off the website.”

As the Campus Security vehicle winds its way around residences, everything seems quiet. But this is just Wednesday, Skeggs tells me: starting tomorrow, things will get busier. Thursday, Friday and Saturday are the busiest nights, for obvious reasons.

“Most often we start to get busy when people start coming back [from bars],” he said. “People will call us and we’ll take them to Queen’s First Aid.”

The supervisor, along with Queen’s First Aid, will check the student’s vital signs and decide whether he or she needs to be sent to the hospital.

After a tour of main campus, we head to West, which is similarly silent.

Skeggs said they spend less time checking West Campus at night: the patrols usually head there once.

“People who work out here,live out here, tend to think it’s an under-serviced area. It kind of is,” he said.

“Then again, there isn’t a whole lot going on here.”

There has been some talk of establishing a Campus Security office on West Campus, Skeggs said.

“I think it’s a possibility that we’ll have an office out here … but it’s all budgetary.”

Finally it was back to the ERC for a brief tour of what seemed like an insane computer system: a computer that monitors every alarm at the University, records when any alarm is armed or disarmed and keeps track of intrusions and fire alarms.

“All phone lines and radio transmissions are recorded … [to] verify that we’ve told someone something,” Skeggs said.

The centre is run on an emergency generator and has a backup phone, so that if the Queen’s network goes down, this computer will still work. The most exciting part of the night, at least from a crime-fighting perspective, comes at 11:31 p.m.: an intrusion alarm from the Centre for Teaching and Learning in Mackintosh-Corry.

At first I’m shocked: who would want to steal anything from there? But the phone rings a moment
later, with an anti-climactic answer: a departing custodian didn’t set the alarm properly.

Leaving the ERC sans snazzy jacket, I can’t help but be a little disappointed at the tameness of my evening. Then again, I’m probably much better off limiting my crime fighting to the make-believe.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.