Nothing to hide
Jennifer BrownFeatures Opinion
A robbery occurred on campus during the first two weeks Bob Cowper was on the
job as director of Campus Police and Parking at the University of Windsor.
After dealing with the incident, he wanted to issue a press release to
outlets. The university public affairs department of the day was
horrified. They told him, "No way, the public would see it." His
reaction was, "Well, who do you think should see
That public affairs director didn’t last long, but seven years later Cowper publishes
details of every incident that occurs on campus on a quarterly basis whether it was his
campus police or Windsor police who responded. And it can all be found on the school
website. From the beginning, Cowper has been an advocate for publishing stats from his
department even though no educational body in Canada requires that he do so.
In the U.S., universities are guided by a federal act that says they must publish such
information so that anyone such as students and parents can know what’s happening
"Why would we be afraid to show that? Do we have crime? Of course we have crime,"
Smart organizations have embraced the idea that a security department and the services
it provides can be used as a selling point to clients both internally and externally.
Publishing and knowing statistics around crime can also help departments make the case
for bigger budgets to address ongoing security issues.
Especially in tough economic times, crime goes up — this is not the time for any
organization to take a backseat on security. As Cowper says, the broken window theory
dictates that if you let something like that go, things fall apart and next thing nobody wants
to come here.
Universities and colleges increasingly compete for students, and while
make their choices based on the program they want, faculty or proximity
increasingly they and their parents are also considering
the issue of safety and security.
"We’re all entering that playing field where we’re
fighting for students and in this era we can’t just say
we’re thinking about it — they want to see tangible
results," says Cowper.
Surveys that ask how students choose universities are
starting to show that the number two reason is safety.
For example, Maclean’s magazine includes "sense of
personal safety and security" as part of their annual survey of
At orientation programs for prospective students and their parents,
University of Windsor security department promotes its security
and frequently field questions about the school’s special constable
ability to make arrests, campus safety, and emergency plans.
Cowper says parents like it when they hear the school has CCTV
cameras and a walk safe program. And Cowper doesn’t hide anything — he posts stats from the last five years on the university’s website,
listing all incidents from property crimes to weapons offences,
broken down by location on campus. He also records the number of
calls police and campus police respond to.
Large property management firms have known for a long time
that to help lure tenants they need to create a business case that
values building security.
It should be no surprise that post-secondary institutions like the
University of Windsor are doing the same. Bob Cowper may be just a
little more aggressive in his marketing techniques.
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