Students face stops, searches on campus
Following Halloween parties on campus that saw fireworks launched into a crowd, Saanich Police Department (SPD) has increased its presence on campus during weekends. Police blocked off entrances to the university.
First-year education student Juston Tran lives in residence. He says he was at the parties on Halloween filming and taking photos with a friend of his. While he thinks that students should be able to party and enjoy themselves, he says the actions of some people on Halloween went too far.
“The vandalism and the fireworks and all the violence and all that, I don’t condone that at all,” Tran told the Martlet. “I think the city and the school has the right to try to shut that down.”
The SPD has said that moving forward, officers will enforce the Trespass Act as well as the Liquor Control and Licensing Act on weekends. This means the open carry of alcoholic beverages around campus will not be permitted nor will coming to campus unless you live in residence or are engaging in academic activities.
The Martlet first reported on these parties at the beginning of September. At the time, Saanich PD was asking students to dump out open alcohol but did not move to shut down the 1 000-person crowd. Since then, police say the parties have continued and students are engaging in more unsafe and illegal activities that “verge on the brink of rioting.”
On Halloween, police reported a large crowd of more than 1 000 people around residence buildings. Some were shooting fireworks into a crowd, fighting each other, and confronting police.
“We didn’t expect it to be so violent, because the last previous parties, it wasn’t as bad,” said Tran. “It seems like it’s substantially gotten worse and worse and worse.”
In a statement, SPD said that some of the partiers weren’t actually students at UVic and that the majority of the problem came from people outside the university community. They also said that a UVic student reached out to SPD in late September expressing fears for their safety. Following mass gatherings in September, UVic instituted a no guest policy in residence. (add UVic rule that guests can’t come to res)
“While we can appreciate that young persons want to gather for enjoyment, it is being done in a manner that is irresponsible and unsafe and puts everyone at serious risk,” SPD said in the statement.
The police returned to campus on the weekend following halloween. One user on Reddit claimed that they, along with their roommate, were asked to show police their student ID and residence keys before being allowed to park on campus. Photos of a police mobile command centre were also shared to Twitter.
In an emailed statement to the Martlet, SPD spokesperson Markus Anastasiades said SPD worked with the university to ensure that large gatherings like those on Halloween didn’t form again and that there weren’t people arriving on campus from elsewhere.
“Our focus was on preventing and/or deterring any large, unauthorized gatherings on campus, as they were proving to be unsafe to those living, working, and studying at the university,” he said. “This included impaired driving road checks near the university grounds, as well as officers on foot patrol spread out around the campus.”
In their own statement, UVic said that since September they have increased the number of weekend staff for Campus Security and hired special duty Saanich police officers to help with public safety. However, they also stated it is evident more is needed and are working closely with SPD to increase security.
UVic also said students caught violating university policies could face fines, removal from dorms, and expulsion from the university.
“We are investigating reports from this weekend and will work with individual students to appropriately address confirmed conduct issues,” said the statement.
Some users have expressed their support online for the new measures as it makes them feel safer. They say that something needs to be done before people get seriously hurt.
“We need more safety, discipline and inspection,” said one poster on Reddit.
Tran said that parties on campus have calmed down substantially since the new measures were put in place.
“There’s not even small gatherings in front of cluster anymore,” he said. “And it’s midterm season right now so a lot of people are hunkering down.”
Both SPD and UVic say the new measures are to protect students. With the stress of exam season approaching, UVic says they want to make sure students feel safe and able to learn.
“It is imperative that students living on campus feel safe and have quiet time in their homes to focus on their studies,” said the university.