University increasing security after weekend vandalism

The University of Saskatchewan announced its taking steps to address student concerns about vandalism experienced on the weekend. File / Global News

SASKATOON – University of Saskatchewan Interim President Gordon Barnhart announced increased security measures Wednesday to deal with vandalism on campus. He says there were about 53 vehicles vandalized on the weekend in a student parking lot.

The president’s response comes after students presented their concerns to the university via a petition Monday. Barnhart says action has and will be done to address concerns about their safety and security.

“We do not accept vandalism, it is just the most horrendous crime that I can think of, other than personal safety and I am very sorry that the criminal element is picking on our students,” said Barnhart.

“This is a large campus, we have a lot of people and we have many buildings, so we do our very best and protective services, I think, try their very best to provide a good safe environment.”

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An internal investigation has been launched into how members of the unit responded to initial calls.

“There was a complaint that phone calls were made and they weren’t responded to an appropriate way, we’re looking at that,” said Barnhart.

READ MORE: U of S students outraged after more than 50 vehicle break-ins

Immediately following the incident, protective services increased the frequency of their patrols in the McKeown Park area. An officer in a marked patrol car is now stationed near the parking lot from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The petition also asked for security cameras and adequate lighting to be installed to cover the entirety of the McEown Park U-Lot.

Surveillance cameras are anticipated this fall and temporary lighting improvements are expected by the end of the month. The increased security will be in place until these are functional.

“We’ve already started to put the cabling in place for cameras and for extra lighting, so the process had already been started before this unfortunate incident,” said Barnhardt.

“Part of the delay was that we needed to wait until the frost was out of the ground because it requires underground wiring, pumping and secondly it’s related to the construction of the new daycare centre.”

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READ MORE: Construction starts for University of Saskatchewan child care centre

A permanent solution for improved lighting campus-wide could be many months away, according to Barnhardt’s release.

His release also touched on students experiencing racial discrimination through these incidents.

“One of the students, especially, said ‘this just seems like there are international students being targeted’ and I don’t think there’s any merit to that worry, I can’t imagine someone at 2:30 in the morning in the dark is saying ‘this is a car that belongs to an international student and this one isn’t,’ it seemed to be just a mass vandalism to virtually all of the cars that were there,” said Barnhart.

“I just want to reassure the international students, in fact all students, we’re taking as much care and attention as we can to protect them and to protect their property.”

Although the university says it is not responsible for the acts of vandals and criminals, it has established a relief fund. The fund is intended to offset the financial hardships incurred by affected students.

“There’s a group of students here … that are need of help and so the university will put up some money and also we’re encouraging people to make a donation to help the students in need,” said Barnhart.

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“The details haven’t yet been worked out but we are going to make sure that we can help where we can.”

Barnhart says he will be meeting with the students on May 22.

“I don’t think we will ever avoid crime or vandalism … on campus, we do our very best to try and make the campus as safe and secure as possible,” said Barnhart.

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