Small department, big heart

The [Peterborough Lakefield Community Police] Victim Services Unit is small, wrote Peterborough This Week May 6. It’s made up of just one person, Special Constable Christie Christie [BA ’99]. She’s it.

Even though the unit is tiny, the issues she deals with are huge.

She sees victims of break-and-enters, domestic assaults, sexual assaults, family disputes, harassment, robberies and thefts. She sees the family members of someone who has been murdered, or who has committed suicide. She sees people at their absolute worst. This is what she deals with every day.

Her job is to try and make contact with the victim of every incident, regardless of whether or not charges were laid. In her office, filled with beautiful potted orchids, at the police station, she sits down with a victim and listens to their story. Her job is to then refer that person to a specific community agency or service that can help them address their issue. She also helps victims understand all of the court lingo, and the court process which can stretch on for months or even years.

"I don’t consider myself a counsellor," she explains. "I like helping people. I like the ability to make someone’s life a little less stressful, a little easier."

Before moving into the Victim Services Unit, Christie, who holds a degree in sociology from York University, spent the previous 12 years working as a special constable in court services.

York steps up security but Village presents a unique problem

After a recent spate of violence, York University is facing fresh calls to address the safety of students living in a dense pocket of housing just south of the school’s campus, wrote the National Post May 9.

The Village, where international student Qian Liu was found dead in her home last month, came under scrutiny again last week after a student was sexually assaulted inside the [Seneca@York building]; the suspect in that case was also seen following two women home on the outskirts of The Village, just east of the Jane-Finch corridor.

York stepped up security on campus in the wake of the latest attack, spokesperson Wallace Pidgeon said, but The Village presents a unique problem. Packed with illegal student housing units, the area is outside the school’s jurisdiction, preventing York from deploying its own security team or setting up emergency phones. Students, growing increasingly frustrated by the school’s response, are calling on York’s administration to make their concerns a priority at City Hall.

“The University needs to play a more proactive role in ensuring safety for students who live in that area, not just looking at liability and legal responsibilities,” York Federation of Students incoming president Vanessa Hunt said Monday.

She criticized the school for moving slowly on key initiatives in a 2010 safety audit, including expansion of the school’s shuttle program into The Village side streets. Pidgeon says while all the audit’s recommendations are “being looked at,” it is not clear whether, or when, the outstanding measures will be implemented. The project’s total timeframe is five years.

Pidgeon says the school is concerned about the safety of all York students, stepping up campus patrols after the incident last week. He pointed to a half-million-dollar increase in security spending in the past year and a host of added safety measures, including hundreds of closed-circuit television cameras.

But off campus, Pidgeon said, York does not have the same jurisdiction. “We are working to discuss these concerns with our municipal partners, and we would ask them to be as vigilant as we are,” Pidgeon said, citing a forum called “Town and Gown” where police, students, faculty and community members can gather to discuss safety issues. “Much has been done and we acknowledge that there potentially is more to do,” Pidgeon said.

Police have also been working to strengthen ties with York and have focused their own resources on The Village specifically in recent months. “There’s a huge population…. It’s always a concern of ours,” 31 Division Detective Sergeant Alan Coulter said. “We direct patrols through that area all the time.”

  • Siva Vimalachandran, vice-president equity with the York Federation of Students, spoke about the recent assault in the Seneca@York building, on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” May 9
  • Vanessa Hunt, president of the York Federation of Students, spoke about safety on York’s Keele campus, on Global Television May 9.

On air

  • Peter Victor, economics professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, took part in a debate about sustainability and economic growth, on CBC Radio’s “Ideas” May 9.