CS Honours: Community Leader Award – Sean Sportun
By Will Mazgay
Convenience stores are part of the fabric of communities, and few people understand this better than Sean Sportun.
Sportun is the manager of security and loss prevention (LP) for Circle K Stores Central Canada Division. He says his primary focus is training, crime prevention and robbery deterrence programs, but the way he goes about combating theft and keeping stores safe is, as he puts it, “outside the box of best practices when it comes to security.” He utilizes, “crime prevention through community engagement.”
Circle K Central Canada’s Positive Ticketing program began in 2007. The idea was to give beverage coupons to police officers, who would hand them out to young people they see doing something good in their community.
The program, which has received endorsement from Public Safety Canada and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, has been implemented by police services, community outreach organizations and Crime Stoppers programs across Ontario, and in recent years expanded to western Canada and Arizona. Sportun was recognized by Canadian Security magazine in 2013 as Security Director of the Year for his approach to this initiative.
Another successful program, the Circle K StreetART Mural initiative, began in 2012 at a store in Thunder Bay, Ont. Sportun says of the store, “There were robberies, drug use out back, there was prostitution in and around the store. We had tried every CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) measure that we could, nothing seemed to work.” He explains that his team brought together police, the city council and community members to identify a local graffiti artist and paint a mural. “Since we did that back in 2012 at that one store we haven’t had one incident occur.”
Sportun says he and his team wondered if this was an isolated incident, but they duplicated it in different areas of Ontario and started seeing similar results.
Bonnie Birollo, Circle K’s vice-president of operations for Western Canada Division, says of the program, “So many of the communities he’s worked with now have these beautiful murals where they would have suffered with graffiti or vandalism in the past. Now they’ve almost become a sacred ground that’s not to be touched: ‘Don’t mess with our community, we have a strength and a pride here.’”
Birollo says Sportun’s initiatives even inspired her to change her LP and safety culture within her own business unit.
Before he was helping to shape communities, Sportun began his career as a security officer at Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan, Ont. “I was in uniform for about two weeks and quickly was promoted into a plainclothes capacity,” he says. “I was doing undercover work there. That kind of set my compass of getting into the loss prevention sector, into the security industry, being exposed to a lot of the unique files and investigations that happened within the park.”
After Wonderland, Sportun bounced around a bit, first to Kmart Canada as an LP manager, then to Eaton’s, and Sports Authority after that.
He then had a brief respite from LP, working at a high-end Toronto hotel as a security officer, and then he found himself at Nike, IKEA and then 7-Eleven, where he moved into a regional management role and was responsible for all of Ontario, before finally moving to Circle K.
Beyond the community engagement Sportun participates in through his role at Circle K, he is heavily involved in Crime Stoppers, which is a partner in the Positive Ticketing campaign. Sportun serves as Toronto chair. He is also first vice-president of the Ontario Association of Crime Stoppers and second vice-president of the International Society of Crime Prevention Practitioners.
He says he got involved with Crime Stoppers in 2002, when he was at 7-Eleven, after seeing news about a missing girl. “I sat there and said, ‘I’ve got a whole bunch of stores across the province. Maybe we can put up missing posters and see if we can generate any leads for the police.” He continues, “Before I knew it, I was on the Board of Directors… 18 years later, it’s been probably one of the best decisions I could have ever made.”
Martin Douglas, a police constable with Toronto Police Service, has been with Crime Stoppers since 2010, and says Sportun has played a huge role in building the Toronto program over the years. Now that Sportun is in a leadership position, “when initiatives come up and they’re approved by the board, Sean moves forward very quickly and he gets them executed.” Douglas continues, “Sean has made the program the most successful it’s ever been.”
This story was featured in the Fall 2019 edition of Canadian Security magazine.