AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he’s increasing trooper patrols around the University of Texas campus following recent robberies in the West Campus area.
An increased number of troopers with the Texas Department of Public Safety will be monitoring the area.
In a statement Thursday, Abbott called the robberies and crimes “unacceptable.”
“These extra patrols provided by DPS will help keep students safe and deter criminals from preying upon innocent people. Nothing is more important than the safety and security of our communities, and the state will continue to provide resources to put an end to these attacks and robberies,” Abbott’s statement read.
Thursday morning robbery
One of those robberies happened Thursday morning, and both UT and Austin police are looking for two suspects.
The Austin Police Department said the robbery took place at an apartment complex on San Pedro Street, between West 28th Street and West 28th 1/2 Street, around 6:10 a.m.
APD said the two suspects had guns when they entered the apartment. They also took weapons from the people living there.
Here are their descriptions provided by APD.
- White or Hispanic Male
- Early to mid 20s
- 6’- 6’ 2”
- Around 180 lbs.
- Fair skinned
Suspect #1 was last seen wearing a burnt orange bandana over his face, black gloves, a white hoodie with a black design on the chest and a hood over his head. He had a black semi-automatic gun, APD said.
- White or Hispanic Male
- Late teens to early 20s
- 5’ 7″
- Around 140 lbs.
- Skinny build
- Medium complexion
Suspect #2 was last seen wearing a dark-colored baseball hat, a bandana mask over face, a black hoodie with the hood over his head and distressed white-washed skinny blue jeans. He had a silver and black semi-automatic gun, according to APD.
Anyone with information on the suspects can call the APD Robbery tip line at (512) 974-5092 or Crime Stoppers at 512-472-TIPS.
Community group concerned for students
Safe Horns, a private coalition made up of parents and residents focused on safety, held a press conference about the robbery Thursday afternoon.
The group said male students were robbed at gunpoint in the home invasion, and one of them was pistol whipped.
“When they hit me in the head, that’s when I woke up and realized, oh, this is real,” said one student.
Each of the victims asked for their names to be withheld. His roommate was able to hide in the closet and call police.
“I had to wake up this morning worrying about whether or not my friend was dead, and that’s just wrong. That shouldn’t be the case for anybody,” the roommate said.
Cater Joseph, the students’ landlord and a man who owns several properties in West Campus, said crime has gone up in the area. He’s worried the restructuring of the Austin Police budget will affect how often APD patrols that section of the city.
“[Imagine] your family is held at gunpoint, and there is no one there to help you. No one there to help you. That is completely crazy,” Joseph said.
Joseph claims it took APD more than 15 minutes to arrive on scene and clear the area. APD told KXAN the initial call for help came in at 6:17 a.m. and the first units arrived five minutes later at 6:22 a.m.
Council Member Kathie Tovo said the changes being made within the police force will actually help out in situations like this.
Tovo said other professionals will be called to mental health emergencies, thereby freeing up police to handle violent calls.
“We are, as a council, committed to ensuring our city remains a safe place for everyone,” Tovo said.
The students say the city should start with more lighting and cameras in the area. On Wednesday, University of Texas Police Chief David Carter confirmed upgrades to surveillance will be implemented before the spring semester.
The lighting in West Campus has been a major concern since the murder of UT freshman Haruka Weiser in 2016.
Last year, the city released a lighting study and began replacing broken lights and updating to LEDs, whenever possible. Trees were also trimmed back to keep from blocking lights and creating shadows where people could hide.
Tovo advised students to call 311 if they see broken lamps or trees obstructing light from entering the street.
Whatever does ultimately change, the students just hope it comes soon.
“We don’t feel safe. I don’t know how many more times this can happen,” Thursday morning’s victim said.