The death of dance freshman Haruka Weiser last spring prompted the University to make campus-wide safety improvements. Exactly one year after her death, students say some safety improvements are more noticeable than others.
Shortly after Weiser’s murder April 3 of last spring, UT President Gregory Fenves requested that the Texas Department of Public Safety conduct a campus security assessment. After a 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, some of which have already been implemented.
Marketing junior Anna Lara said these changes are most apparent near the College of Fine Arts, close to where Weiser’s murder occurred. Lara said while she has noticed consistent UT Police Department presence in vehicles, officers on foot patrol are less frequent compared to the initial days after the murder.
“The first couple of weeks after (the murder) there were a lot of UTPD officers walking, where we would never see that before, but that’s stopped again,” Lara said. “But (the fine arts area) is a bit lighter and there’s definitely more people there and more (police) vehicles on campus.”
Similarly, Charles Bradbury, an international relations and global studies and history senior, said he’s noticed some safety measures have remained more consistent than others.
“In West Campus there are less people hanging around at night, and there’s way more safety signs and Be Safe ads,” Bradbury said. “But where there were a lot of cops for a while on campus (after it happened) … they’ve definitely gone down since last year.”
Gerald Harkins, associate vice president of Campus Safety and Security, said the more dramatic increase in police presence shortly after Weiser’s death had to do with the high-profile nature of the crime.
“Right after the body was discovered until we arrested the suspect, we had a murderer loose on campus or around, so DPS had officers on horses and we had a lot more visibility,” Harkins said. “Once we felt we had captured the individual, we were able to adjust our timing.”
While UTPD has adjusted the shift schedules of its patrol officers and implemented some officers on foot and bikes, hiring more officers may become a long-term solution, Harkins said.
Additionally, SURE Walk has increased its efficiency since Weiser’s death, expanding their services in the last year by adding golf carts and cars, increasing their demand from 10 to 15 walks per week to hundreds and even thousands per month.
While SURE Walk and other security updates have enhanced safety on campus, civil engineering junior Connor Ivy said there will always be a need for students to be cautious on campus.
“Personally, I haven’t ever felt unsafe on campus, even after (Weiser’s murder) because as a guy, I don’t feel like I have to think about it that much,” Ivy said. “But with my female friends, they use SURE Walk and I have walked them to their dorms because girls just have to be more careful (because they’re victimized more often).”
Weiser was reported missing on April 4, 2016. 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.
A memorial to commemorate the anniversary of Weiser’s death will take place today on the Main Mall at 8 p.m.