Officials preparing to warn students of potential danger in midst

By Matt Hartley
Local News - Wednesday, August 11, 2004 @ 07:00

Philip Foremsky, a 22-year-old convicted rapist, is living in a halfway house in Kingston.

Photo: Courtesy Kingston Police
Officials at education institutions across the city are discussing how to prepare students for a possible encounter with a convicted rapist who police say could easily blend into any college, university or high school crowd.

Philip Foremsky, a 22-year-old who sexually assaulted six women near York University in Toronto four years ago, is living in a halfway house in Kingston.

Foremsky was released last Thursday from Warkworth Institution in Campbellford on statutory release after serving two-thirds of his sentence. The halfway house, at 508 Portsmouth Ave., is within walking distance of numerous public schools, Loyalist Collegiate & Vocational Institute, Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College.

In 28 days classes will resume at most area high schools. University classes start about a week later.

Dave Patterson, director of campus security at Queen’s University, told The Whig-Standard the university is closely examining Foremsky’s release.

“It’s a concern, hence why we’re actually monitoring the case,” he said.

“One of our jobs is to bring awareness to the issue, by providing the university community with the information that will allow them to make good decisions on their personal safety.”

Foremsky was sentenced to five years in prison in 2001 after pleading guilty to groping, sexually assaulting and robbing six women as they walked near the campus of York University in the summer of 2000.

According to Patterson, Queen’s already has sophisticated security measures including the emergency blue light system, a network of security consoles scattered across the campus and monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But when you’re watching over 16,000 students, 25 per cent of whom live in residences on the campus, constant security patrols and round-the-clock surveillance aren’t always enough.

“We run a number of proactive educational programs to various student groups,” he said. “And when our new students arrive in September, this is information we will pass along to them.”

Correctional Services Canada labelled Foremsky a high risk to reoffend after he performed poorly in treatment programs in prison. He was convicted of dealing contraband three times while in prison after officials found drugs, homemade alcohol and cash in his cell.

York University and Toronto Police have been sharing information about Foremsky with Queen’s officials, York spokeswoman Nancy White told The Whig yesterday.

White said that the rash of attacks perpetrated by Foremsky in 2000 led to a revamping of the York’s security services, “especially in the southwest area of campus [the area where most of the attacks occurred].

“We have created formal walkways where there weren’t [any] before. We’ve created a shuttle service. And we’ve installed more cameras and emergency phones in all areas of the campus.”

Blayne Mackey, executive director responsible for overseeing security at St. Lawrence College on Portsmouth Avenue, said his staff is dealing with the issue a couple of ways.

“We have sent a letter to the parole board expressing our displeasure with their decision to release him into our community,” he said. “We don’t expect it will do much, but we felt we needed to at least register our concern with them.”

Still, Mackey wouldn’t say he felt that Foremsky was a specific risk. At least not yet.

“At this point in time I’d say no,” he said. “I wouldn’t see a reason for concern if he’s on escorted passes, but if he gets unsupervised passes, I don’t know.”

Mackey said his office will distribute information about Foremsky to key points on campus such as student residences, and staff and student services.

“We plan to monitor the situation closely,” he said.

“We don’t want to raise undue alarm in the campus community, but we need to make sure that everyone is aware of the situation.”

In addition to supervision, Mackey said the college also uses intrusion alarms on all of its buildings and as well as video surveillance.

Greg Cosgrove, director of the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic School Board, said his board is concerned about Foremsky’s release but isn’t about to incite panic.

“We plan to provide the information we receive from police to area school principals,” he said.

“They will simply remind students of the various behaviours we encourage in students …

“We’re not going to reproduce all the information and hand it out to every student, that would be overkill,” Cosgrove added. “One of the problems with taking that approach is that you water down the value of alerting students.”

Cosgrove said Foremsky’s record suggests that older students, particularly high school and university women, are at a heightened risk.

Still, Cosgrove believes children have grown better at protecting themselves from would-be attackers. He continues to hear about instances in which children have thwarted attacks by doing exactly what they’ve been taught to do.

“Sadly, our kids are becoming much more street-smart,” he said. “There’s a whole lot smarter group of kids out there today than there was 20 years ago.”

Ron Sharp, director of education for the Limestone District School Board, said he’ll discuss Foremsky’s release with principals at a meeting in September.

“I think that quite clearly, this is a very dangerous individual,” Sharp said. “For whatever reason the parole service – I guess they have to follow rules as well – decided to release him.”

Sharp said the Portsmouth Community Correctional Centre, where Foremsky resides, is close to a number of his board’s schools, including LCVI.

“It’s never been a problem” he said. “We’ll do what we need to do to make sure that our schools in the immediate area are aware of all the issues.

“There is a convenience store and a shopping centre not too far away, and we have to make sure they’re well prepared for this sort of individual as well.”

Foremsky is five-foot-six and 126 pounds, with short brown hair and hazel eyes. Except for tattoos on his neck, back arms and legs, he looks like a typical student.

Foremsky told police he doesn’t plan to reoffend.

He had no reaction when police told him they planned to hand out his picture to the public.