The quiet guardian of a Toronto tower

Condo security guard keeps watchful eye at 4 a.m. as the city sleeps

Security guard
John Silz, an overnight security guard at the Casa II condo tower in downtown Toronto, monitors security cameras on May 19, 2019. Jae You Kim

It’s quarter after four in the morning. John Silz sits at his desk at the Casa II condo in downtown Toronto when an Uber Eats delivery man approaches. Silz asks for the building address, and when the delivery man reads the address, Silz activates the elevator system.

Silz, 61, has been working as an overnight security guard for 10 years now, and he’s been working at Casa II since January of 2017, only months after people first moved into the new building. His hours are from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. except for one 12-hour shift on Saturday night. He’s off on Thursdays and Fridays.

“Twelve hours are brutal. I used to do two 12-hour overnight shifts every week at my previous site, and trust me, it can be very painful to sit in one spot and look at the surveillance monitor for 12 hours straight,” says Silz.

Silz was a truck driver for 25 years before he decided to change careers. He obtained his Ontario security guard licence about 10 years ago when he began working as the security guard at another condo called Skymark. He’s employed by G4S Canada, a large security company with more than 1,000 clients across the country.

Silz is one of more than 27,000 people working as security guards or in related security service occupations in the Toronto region as of May 2019, according to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

Silz’s top priority is maintaining a safe and secure community for the residents. His duties include checking certain floors and mechanical rooms several times during his shift, monitoring the security cameras, handling people’s complaints, which are usually about noise or smell, and stopping homeless people or other non-residents from attempting to sneak into the building.

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“Twelve hours are brutal. I used to do two 12-hour overnight shifts every week at my previous site, and trust me, it can be very painful to sit in one spot and look at the surveillance monitor for 12 hours straight,”

-John Silz

“There’s a church right across the street that is open for homeless people, but it closes at 10 p.m. So those who don’t make it in time for the shelter always try to sneak into one of the condos in this area. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I can’t leave the desk for more than a couple minutes,” says Silz.

When his shift is over, Silz goes back to his home in Scarborough where he lives with his girlfriend. He commutes by bus and subway, which takes about 40 minutes, or the GO train when he doesn’t want to worry about the “TTC breaking down.” Then he usually goes straight to the grocery store or mall to get whatever he needs on that day and comes back home to eat and watch TV before heading to bed at 11:30 a.m. Silz wakes up around 8:30 p.m. and gets ready for work. He usually arrives early and smokes at a bench near Casa II before his shift starts.

Theo Ogoegbunam, an afternoon security guard at Casa II, says “John is a detailed guy, and he’s always on time. I really appreciate that. Too bad that we don’t get to spend much time together because his shift is right after mine, but I know that he’s a good guy who really pays attention to his job.”

According to Silz, all the security guards at Casa II get paid the same; there’s no extra pay for working overnight. The hourly wage is $16. That’s slightly higher than the median wage for security guards in Toronto, which is about $14 according to ESDC. Even though there is no extra pay, Silz still prefers working night shifts because he loves how peaceful and quiet his workplace is at night.

“Working overnight isn’t easy. It definitely is not. Your body cycle is completely opposite from others and you don’t get to spend much time with your friends and family. But I just really like this peacefulness of nighttime,” says Silz.

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Posted: Jun 11 2019 9:19 am
Filed under: Features Toronto at 4 a.m.