Dalhousie and Halifax Regional Police (HRP) are once again teaming up this fall to help ensure the smooth and safe influx of thousands of new and returning students to south-end Halifax.
Thanks to the longstanding partnership, the university and neighbours will have a dedicated police presence in the areas surrounding Dal’s Halifax campuses during Orientation Week and then on weekends through mid-November.
A community presence
Officers involved in HRP’s back-to-class program — known as “Operation Fall Back” — are there to help provide a safe environment for students and the surrounding neighbourhoods, says Constable Robin Sherwood, community liaison officer for Halifax's south end.
By responding as quickly as possible to calls in the area and coordinating with Dal Security, Const. Sherwood says the officers are able to help ensure they provide the best service possible to everyone who lives in the surrounding neighbourhoods — from students to local residents.
“We liaise with Dal Security, which allows us to respond to any events and deploy resources to cover specific areas as needed," says Const. Sherwood. He explained that officers fan out across the area by foot, bike and car.
(Note: Operation Fall Back is separate from the enhanced security measures currently in place for Dalhousie’s Carleton Campus. For more on those, see the September 2 memo from Vice-President Finance and Administration Ian Nason.)
Though Fall Back — entering its 11th year — only runs through the end of September, Dalhousie then steps in to support extending this service later into the fall. Here’s how the patrols break down:
- Operation Fall Back patrol: Sept. 6 – Sept. 30. (Every night during Orientation Week; Thursday to Saturday thereafter)
- Dalhousie Designated Police patrol: Oct. 1 – mid-Nov. (Thursday-to-Saturday in October; Friday and Saturday in November), plus on Munro Day (March 4) and St. Patrick's Day (March 17)
- Additional Halifax Regional Police presence: Halloween (Oct. 31) and St. Patrick’s Day.
"This is an important partnership that has been proven to be very effective in creating a safer and more respectful environment for everybody," says Ian Nason, Dalhousie's vice-president of finance and administration.
Const. Sherwood says the majority of offences the officers deal with relate to alcohol and noise. By writing tickets and imposing fines, officers are able to send a message to students that they take offences seriously and will enforce the rules.
In addition to Fall Back, Dalhousie hires additional fully uniformed police officers to monitor and write tickets in and around the residences during orientation week and every weekend after that in September.
Total offences documented by police during designated patrols in 2014 totalled 420 — a drop of nearly 30 per cent compared to a year earlier.
Feedback from the community to Fall Back and the other designated patrols has been positive, says Const. Sherwood, who heard from neighbours at the President’s Annual Community Meeting last May. “Neighbours at that meeting suggested things were better,” he says.
While some small issues continue to crop up, a majority of neighbours who participated in a local survey conducted by the Dalhousie last year said they feel the designated police patrols are helping to keep their neighbourhoods safe.
“The community feels really reassured because they see police on their streets engaging with students,” says Jake MacIssac, community safety officer with Dal’s Security.
Connecting with students
HRP and Dalhousie also work together when it comes to training and advocacy around campus safety and support. Const. Sherwood will join members of Dal Security, Residence Life and other teams across the university in the coming days for educational sessions for key groups of students across campus, from campus leaders to first-year new arrivals.
He also connects with students during meetings related to Dal’s restorative justice program, which brings together students who have received summary offence tickets or who face criminal charges with the community and other partners to encourage accountability and reparation of harms.
Const. Sherwood says the feedback he hears from students about the patrol and their engagement with police and security more generally tends to be largely positive.
“Generally the feedback is they knew what was going on and they felt safe,” he says.
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