Concerns arise over blue light bars

Campus Security and City Council look into misuse of blue light phones

Campus Security has hired two additional staff for direct patrolling of the blue lights on campus after students have continued to misuse the emergency phones.

“False blue light activations, no matter the motivation, take our response staff away from other calls,” Campus Security Director David Patterson told the Journal via email. “False activations are a drain on our resources.” The 176 blue lights are located in frequently traveled areas around campus to allow access to emergency services. When the red button is pushed, it directs the person to the Queen’s Campus Security Emergency Report Services.

Since 2008, there has been a spike in the number of blue lights pressed maliciously. On the Campus Security website, a combined total of “Malicious” and “No Cause Located” numbers are provided to best reflect the true number of malicious activations. In 2012, up until Dec. 11, there were 362 incidents of this nature, compared to 327 in 2011, according to the Whig-Standard.

City Council began looking into the issue after a group of women, including SGPS executive assistant, Anne-Marie Grondin, brought their concerns to the Dec. 4 Council meeting. The following week, Kingston Police announced they would be looking into the blue light incidents.

There have been reports of students misusing the blue lights in an attempt to get a jacket bar known as “Blue Light” or “True Blue.” The bar can be achieved if a group of students go around campus and shotgun a beer for every blue light on campus. To mark their completion, students will sometimes duct tape the empty can to the post and scatter.

Some of the students attempting the jacket bar have gone as far as to press the button on the blue lights. The button alerts Campus Security of an emergency in that location. Others have climbed the poles in an effort to smash the light bulb. “[The vandalism] is unacceptable behavior,” City Councilor Dorothy Hector said. “[The blue lights] aren’t there to look pretty, they are there for emergency, just as a fire alarm is.” The first blue light phone was installed 1988.

The largest install was after a 1992 campus safety audit, which resulted in emergency system improvements on Queen’s campus.

The improvements aimed to assist in preventing and effectively responding to physical and sexual assaults.

“This is strictly a university issue, the community safety concerns City Council,” Hector said. “Community safety is at the forefront of my work on Council. My ears perk up when these issues are brought forward.”

In a letter published in the Kingston Whig-Standard on Dec. 5, Pam Cross, chair of the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston, wrote that “the possible consequences of this kind of behaviour are both obvious and serious.

“Three hundred and twenty false alarms creates serious issues for campus security, which is responsible for responding to these calls, and could lead to response burnout, slowed reaction time and the inability of campus security to do its job.”

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