A walk in the new woods


Nowhere to hide: Security cameras now watch the trails in the woods, scanning for signs of trouble.

Nowhere to hide: Security cameras now watch the trails in the woods, scanning for signs of trouble.

“Rape woods” may soon be a thing of the past, if a campus security blitz undertaken last summer is a success.

Following a string of sexual assaults last year, school officials launched a new effort to reclaim and secure the wooded area and pathways near the Trafalgar Campus residence buildings.

The pathways, commonly used by students and the public, have undergone extensive woodcutting and are now home to new lights and cameras, with more on the way.

“Security of our students and our employees is foremost for us,” said Jeff Zabudsky, president of Sheridan College.

Zabudsky said that the college worked closely with police to come up with a plan to respond.

“Sheridan did everything in its power to ensure that we are as safe an environment as possible and that has continued to this day,” he said.

The wood clearing measures saw several dozen trees near the pathways removed and extensive pruning of low-hanging branches, opening up visibility.

“What that means is that you have, for almost 90 per cent of the trail, maybe even a bit more, you can see both ends of the trail,” said Michael Burjaw, Sheridan’s director of security and emergency preparedness. “You’re not enclosed as much as you were. It’s a much more open spot.”

Infrastructure has also been put into place for light poles, however, delivery delays prevented the project’s completion until later this month. Cameras are also mounted on some of the poles and nearby buildings to keep an eye on the area.

Finally, more security personnel and vehicles have been added in an effort to provide greater visibility.

“They have a much more prominent presence in and around the campus than ever before,” said Zabudsky. “I’m seeing them as I park.”

Security has also been equipped with a new all-terrain vehicle and Segway, which Burjaw says allows the officers to patrol much faster and cover more ground.

Despite the added projection, Burjaw recommends students keep themselves safe while walking by staying alert and aware of their surroundings, walking with a purpose and with friends and making use of the Safe Walk program, which escorts students to any point on campus and through the woods.

To promote safety on all three campuses, security also advises students and staff to download the Sheridan mobile phone app. “It only takes a second to download,” says Burjaw. “Security is only a touch away.”

That download could also have rewards, too. Security will be giving away Tim Hortons gift cards to randomly selected students. Officers will be approaching students and those who can show they have the app and their OneCard will be given one of the gift cards.