UT students say they feel safe on campus, fear homelessness off campus

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Despite mostly positive results from the latest safety survey from the University of Texas Police Department, students still think more could be done to protect them. 

“Police officers have really stepped it up and tried to make sure people felt safe,” said Saahil Arab, a junior at UT Austin.

A new survey released by UTPD shows confidence in the campus police’s ability to protect their students.

“Everyone should know that campus is a safe place,” Arab said.

Of the 4,590 students polled, 78 percent of students either agreed or strongly agreed that they feel safe and secure on campus. Perhaps, the most striking number relates to students fears directly off-campus.

“Sometimes they ask you for money, sometimes they want to talk to you some more,” Arab said about the homeless people he will often see in West Campus. 

“Robberies, stabbings, things like that,” said Kacey Vandervort, a sophomore at UT and officer for Student Safehorns, when asked what she worries about off campus. 

“I feel unsafe leaving my room at 8 pm and the sun is down,” said Emily Crone, a freshman at UT and also an officer for Student Safehorns. 

More than a quarter of those polled say transient crime is their biggest concern.

“You never see UTPD or APD until something happens. Then they are on campus for about a week until everyone forgets and then they disappear again and you don’t see them until another event happens,” Vandervort said. 

Chief David Carter acknowledged the threat of homelessness near campus. In a letter to students, he wrote that his officers continue to patrol on the road, on their bikes and on foot as much as possible. 

While the survey is a good start, students say they want to see words become actions, including more lights in the area and extra patrols nearby. 

“These are baby steps, but there is still a long way to go to clean up the act around West Campus,” Crone said. 

UTPD said they are pleased with the progress they are making with more than 1600 students completing the survey compared to 2015 when it was last conducted. 

Improving lighting in the West Campus area has been a priority since the murder of UT freshman Haruka Weiser in 2016. 

A recent year-long study by Austin transportation officials found 20 percent of the lights in the area aren’t working. 230 more lights are needed to bring the area up to standard. The city estimates it will cost about two million dollars to fix. 

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