UTPD prepares to launch crime reporting app as chief raises homeless camping concerns

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The police department at the University of Texas at Austin plans to launch a new app this fall semester that will make it easier for students to report crimes and submit tips they’d like officers to check out.

The app, called LiveSafe, will allow students to take photos of suspicious people or activities, request help if they don’t feel safe and connect to other law enforcement resources.

Lt. Layne Smith, a leader in UTPD’s community engagement division, said no issue is too small to report. Even if nothing comes of the tip, officers want students to feel comfortable sharing their concerns.

“It sounds kind of silly, but sometimes there’s certain doors that keep being left open and we help them and we try to figure out, okay, what’s actually going on here,” Smith said. “If there’s a string of car burglaries in a certain area, we can get ahead of that.”

The department is not sure when the app will launch but hopes it will be this fall.

This app comes as UTPD Chief David Carter asks the city of Austin to ban camping around the perimeter of campus.

The city relaxed restrictions this summer, allowing people to camp in public places. Advocates say it decriminalizes being homeless, but opponents worry it ties the hands of police officers and leads to safety concerns.

Wednesday, Carter sent a letter to Mayor Steve Adler and city council members asking them to prohibit camping along the Drag, in the West Campus neighborhood and other places around the perimeter of campus.

“The City has a responsibility not only to seek appropriate housing and treatment for the homeless, but to recognize that the interface of young students and some subjects of the homeless community have created potential dangers,” Carter wrote. “This view is not based on discriminatory practices but, rather, on real-world experiences of members of the UT community.”

It’s important to note, however, that the university already bans camping on university property and UTPD has the authority to remove people from campus if they’re causing problems. So the city’s ordinance change did not change how the university police department responds to concerns.

In addition to the new app, UTPD is making officers available by email for students to report concerns.

The department divided UT into districts, much like a city police department would, and students can find and message a representative of their district on the department’s website.

Just like the app, Smith said, the district map gives students another tool to report concerns that don’t warrant a call to 911.

“We need our community partners to help us stop crime before it even happens,” she said. “We need to know what their issues are so we can get ahead of it.”

The 102 officers in the university police department are also now organized into three divisions as the fall semester kicks off: community engagement, public order and investigations and analysis.

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