UT Police Department to Patrol West Campus
By Marco Ramirez
Photography By Marco Ramirez
AUSTIN – When UT Austin senior Alexus Gonzales moved into her apartment at Texan 26th in West Campus last fall, she always felt safe. But that all changed one night in September.
“It was not fun,” Gonzalez said. “It was like someone comes into your space and just disrupts everything, it was definitely scary.”
After leaving her apartment for no more than ten minutes, Gonzales and her boyfriend came back to a terrifying sight. They found a man lying bloodied on her apartment floor.
“He was tripping on acid,” Gonzales said.
Not only did Gonzales find a stranger high on drugs in her own apartment, she also found that he had done some damage.
“We looked around in my apartment and it’s trashed,” Gonzales said. “There were blinds laying on the ground, my room I had a plant in there he threw that everywhere, he knocked over my lamp.”
Gonzales said she felt partially at fault for this happening, since she didn’t lock her door when she left the apartment. After experiencing this incident, Gonzales said she now questions her safety living in West Campus.
“I would say I probably lean more on the feeling of unsafe in West Campus as of right now,” Gonzales said.
According to Austin Police Department crime records, officers responded to one hundred and twenty-five burglaries around The University of Texas within the last year.
But APD will soon get help form from UT Police who received eight million dollars from the UT System Board of Regents to cover West Campus.
The new funding will go towards hiring thirteen new police officers as well as two new sergeants. UTPD will also plan to build a camera network and substation at Walter Webb Hall located on the corner of West 25th Street and Guadalupe.
“UTPD will now have a permanent presence in West Campus,” University Police Chief David Carter said in a statement. “We do not want to be reactive. I did not want to wait until the increase in violent crime hits areas close to our campus.”
Safe Horns, a non-profit student safety organization, has advocated for an increased police presence in the West Campus area since 2015.
“We believe it is a great start but definitely not enough” Safe Horns President Joell McNew said.
While Safe Horns is glad university police are finally responding to their concerns, the need for student safety goes beyond West Campus.
“When you look at the data, there are crime incidents that go farther back that go past 24th and Leon and that area.” McNew said. “Students in North Campus are concerned also.”
Even with the new police presence in West Campus, Safe Horns will continue to communicate their concerns to the university in order to improve safety for all UT students living off campus.
“I think it’s very critical that we are having better communication and bringing everyone together,” McNew said. “It will really make people aware of what’s going on and what the next steps are.”
Austin Police hope the new staffing added to the UT Police Department will be a big help as APD is currently struggling to keep up with calls, due to 122 vacancies within the department.
“In an ideal world we would love to be fully staffed.” Senior Austin Police Officer Bino Cadenas said. “We have a small team of officers going out and trying to keep up with the call load, which is difficult and sometimes impossible.”
Cadenas also believes the new help from UTPD comes at a good time, as the number of UT students continues to grow.
“This is going to help tremendously,” Cadenas said. “I think the city as it’s growing should invest heavily in public safety.”
As for Gonzales, she hopes UT Police’s new presence in West Campus will make a difference in the future.
“I would think that they would figure out what areas of West Campus are most active and focus their efforts there.”