UT students, parents question safety at campus meeting

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Monday afternoon, several agencies associated with both the University of Texas and the City of Austin gathered to discuss safety concerns on campus.

While the safety coalition meeting is an annual meeting that has been held since 2006, many parents were present in light of the murder of a UT student in early April.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says they will continue increased patrols near the campus, specifically in the West Campus area. While some are worried about the large homeless population in that area, Acevedo says West Campus has seen a decrease in both violent crime and property crime year to date.

Some parents, however, don’t think enough is being done, saying homelessness and transients are a real issue and they need to keep pressure on the situation.

The forum is streaming on periscope. Organizers encourage community feedback on how to make campus safer.

After Haruka Weiser’s murder, university officials asked the Department of Public Safety to conduct a safety audit to find the gaps in security on campus and what can be improved.

Parents demand APD substation West of Campus

During Monday’s safety meeting, several parents spoke up saying Austin police needs to step up patrol and deal with criminal transients in the area.

“We’ve noticed an escalation of a more aggressive nature of the transients in West Campus and that’s what’s more alarming,” Brad Zschappel, a UT parent said. “We need the officers on the ground and have that visibility and that presence there and I think the students would come up to them and address it personally with them.”

Police say they’re dealing with the issue with the light staff they have and adding a police substation is not possible right now.  Austin police say violent crime in West campus is down 33 percent year to date and property crime also down 17 percent year to date.

“If we’re asking it’s because we’re not seeing that presence, and it needs to be at night as well,” Joell McNew, another UT parent said. “If they’re not going to put in an APD substation, we want to see a substantial foot patrol, we want to see them out of their cars, we want to see them walking, we want to see them on bicycles, we want to see their presence.”

Austin police assures they have people on the ground and need students to be their eyes as well, calling 911 for any incident no matter how small they think it may be.

Parents are working to fight safety issues on campus, forming a website, SafeHorns, for UT parents, students and staff.

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