UTM Residence’s New Neighbourhood Watch Program

Arjan Banerjee

UTM Student Housing and Residence Life is gearing up to unveil its new Residence Neighbourhood Watch program, developed in partnership with Safe City Mississauga. In the words of Adam Fraser, a Community Development Coordinator and the person primarily responsible for bringing the program to campus, the Neighbourhood Watch is part of the “continuing campaign to make our campus a safe one,” and adheres to SHRL’s mantra of a “proactive approach to safety.”

“We approached Safe City Mississauga because we saw an opportunity for a great partnership,” said Adam. “Alex [Papatchidis, the Neighbourhood Watch Coordinator] from Safe City was excited to do it. They’ve already come and done a CPTED audit so it’s up to us now.” He’s referring to Crime Prevention through Environmental Design audit for which a walkthrough of the watch area is performed in order to highlight physical barriers to safety and to make sure that the physical space is optimally designed to minimize safety risks. UTM Residence has seen some sweeping physical changes to prepare the ground for the watch, with powerful new lighting in the townhouse areas, the removal of large rocks and low-lying branches from the walkways and the re-paving of many of those walkways themselves.

With the CPTED finished, the final steps to establishing the watch are now in motion. ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ signs have been received and their intended locations have been picked. Once the signs are erected, SHRL will inform the residence community about the watch and the responsibilities and opportunities it affords. ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ window stickers have also been ordered and these will, in partnership with the residents, go up in all ground floor windows for all the residential areas. In addition to these material measures, sixty SHRL student staff and four professional SHRL staff members living in residence have been trained as active members of the neighbourhood watch.

One of the most compelling aspects of the watch is that it goes so far beyond helping boost safety and security. One of the main goals of the watch is to build stronger communities and to encourage neighbours to get to know each other. As the Safe City Mississauga handout about the watch tells us, "Neighbourhood Watch provides a venue for residents of a community to form friendships and build stronger communities. Knowing one’s neighbour makes it very simple to identify any strangers or potential problems." This point was reinforced by Adam in my conversation with him when he stressed that, "anyone can be an active part of the watch simply by educating themselves. Collect information, both about the watch and about your community. Make yourself a knowledgeable resource."

Making ourselves knowledgeable about the community we live in is simply about taking notice of our physical surroundings as well as the people who inhabit them. Nobody is better placed to notice odd behaviour or to recognize when someone is out of place in a hallway than us - the people who live here. If we take the time out to familiarize ourselves with all the exits in our hallway, or to explore the safety resources available to us such as the Don on Duty or Campus police, we make our whole community that much safer.

So as the neighbourhood watch kicks into action, I'm excited to see the impact it has on our home. I hope people make use of the opportunities it affords us. Safety is something we can all invest in, and the watch gives us another avenue to do that.