San Marcos police & Texas State University discuss how to improve response to COVID-19 related complaints

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SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN)– San Marcos police and Texas State University are working together to figure out how to better respond to COVID-19 related calls involving students.

“There is already a process in place through which the police department communicates student arrest information to Texas State,” explained San Marcos public safety director Chase Stapp in an email to KXAN. “We are exploring the feasibility of using this process to alert the university to high risk behavior on the part of students in light of COVID-19.”

Stapp says right now, it’s unclear “to what degree the university would be able to take any official action for student conduct violations when they receive this type of report.”

Texas State University’s police chief, Laurie Clouse, says her department already has a protocol in place with San Marcos Police but they are always talking about making it better.

“We reached out to them when school first came back in session and just advised that if there were going to be parties off campus that their communications folks can talk to our dispatchers and request our officers respond,” Clouse says.

From there, she says university police assist SMPD on scene and identify any students at the event, take down their information and refer them to the office of student misconduct.

Clouse also says police have the option of making a referral for student conduct directly.

“We have been getting reports of parties either through anonymous email tips or through other social media channels,” she says.

But she and county officials say one big challenge is *when* those tips tend to come in.

“Do we receive information before they happen? Not typically,” says Alex Villalobos, Hays County’s emergency management coordinator who is aware of those reports. “There are a lot of times we’re receiving information that’s a response to it, so it’s after it’s already happened.”

He and Clouse urge people to report violations, like gatherings, when they happen.

“It makes our ability to identify the people there a lot easier because we can go there and make contact with them,” Clouse says.

San Marcos interim police chief Bob Klett says as far as what SMPD hopes to improve with the university, those discussions are in the works and right now there is nothing formal to report.

The numbers

Clouse says her department has made less than 10 referrals.

The university says fewer than five have been referred for student conduct.

They said they couldn’t tell us what those disciplinary actions were because of student privacy concerns.

KXAN reached out to SMPD to find out how many similar calls they’ve gotten involving Texas State students.

They said they needed more time because those calls are often filed in their system under other activity codes, like noise violation.

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