UT President Fenves provides updates on campus safety before year anniversary of UT murder

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

In preparation for the one-year anniversary of the death of dance freshman Haruka Weiser, UT President Gregory Fenves emailed the campus community to announce a vigil in her honor as well as provide a detailed report of updated security measures on campus.

Shortly after Weiser’s murder last spring, Fenves requested the Texas Department of Public Safety conduct a security vulnerability assessment of the main campus and J.J. Pickle Research Campus. At the end of the four-month review, DPS recommended providing campus areas with additional lighting, increasing police presence, adjusting campus landscapes to improve visibility and addressing the transient population, among other recommendations.

“The DPS report is one data point for us,” said Gerald Harkins, associate vice president of Campus Safety and Security. “There’s been communications from emails, community meetings, talking with staff on campus and dialogue with members of the community that also provided data points.”

Some changes, such as updating building access and increasing police presence, have already been implemented.

Of the 164 buildings on campus, 80 have been updated to require a UT ID for access after certain hours, Harkins said. As of this week, 34 of the general-purpose classroom buildings now have this feature.

Additionally, the UT Police Department has implemented more officers patrolling campus on foot and on bikes.

“Officers on foot should be walking into buildings, visiting with building managers, things like that,” UTPD Chief David Carter said. “You don’t want them to be just responding call-to-call, because then they lose touch with their community. (We need) that visibility to prevent things from occurring.”

Long-term, increasing police presence on campus will require updating the department’s record keeping and computer dispatch technology, both of which are outdated and can keep officers held up in their offices, Carter said. UTPD is also in the process of assessing the size of its department to determine if more officers should be hired.

Additionally, Fenves announced the Executive Compliance Committee approved a long-term strategy in January for implementing DPS recommendations.

The ECC plans to create a University-wide standard for the number of call boxes, video cameras and lights that exist on each pathway and building on campus, Harkins said. After this standard is defined, risk assessments of campus locations will be used to determine areas that need improvement in order to meet this standard.

The University is still in the process of finalizing plans to add video cameras to UTPD emergency call boxes and campus buildings, as well as establishing a University-wide emergency cell phone app for students.

In his email, Fenves announced a memorial ceremony in Weiser’s honor that UT Student Government will hold at the Main Mall on April 3.

Weiser was reported missing on April 4, 2016 after failing to return home from a dance rehearsal the previous evening. On April 5, her body was found in Waller Creek. Meechaiel Criner was indicted on capital murder in connection to her death and is currently awaiting his August trial date.

A full copy of Fenves’ email and ECC report can be found on the Office of the President’s website (http://president.utexas.edu/messages/honoring-the-life-of-haruka-weiser).