Even with fewer students around, the UT Police Department frequently encountered alcohol and drug crimes when responding to off-campus activity this winter break.
“What we’ve asked the officers to do (is make) our primary focus … the campus,” UTPD Assistant Chief Peter Scheets said. “But we also, through coordination with the city of Austin, push out in all directions around the campus to make sure that students are safe as they move on and off the campus.”
Because of an increase in self-initiated activity and off-campus patrolling between Dec. 21 to Jan. 10, UTPD regularly responded to alcohol and drug crimes, Scheets said. The most common offenses were DWIs, possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana and possession or delivery of drug paraphernalia, according to UTPD’s daily crime log.
“A lot of the DWI arrests that you see, a lot of the drug arrests that you see during Christmas break, in particular, are probably (UTPD) engaging in self-initiated activity immediately off-campus and near campus,” Scheets said.
This self-initiated activity usually increases when there is little student and faculty presence on campus to increase security and to ensure no threats invade campus, according to Scheets.
“If you’re fully staffed and things are operating as they should, about a third of an officer’s shift should be self-initiated activity,” Scheets said. “(This means) the officer has the discretion to go out and take enforcement as a crime prevention measure.”
UTPD coordinates their activities with the city of Austin, responding to crimes and patrolling areas within the limits of 30th Street, 15th Street, North Lamar Boulevard and Poquito Street, Scheets said.
Areas such as West Campus, Congress Avenue near the State Capitol and the portion of Duval Street past East Dean Keeton Street were off-campus locations for some of the crimes UTPD responded to over the break, according to the crime log.
UTPD’s Be Safe campaign pledged to increase campus safety measures in May 2017, according to their website, after last spring semester’s on-campus stabbing. These increased safety measures included increased patrolling from UTPD and the Austin Police Department.
Other common crimes during the winter break period included theft, public intoxication and criminal mischief.
Economics senior Danny Nguyen said he feels UT’s location makes the campus and surrounding areas more susceptible to certain crimes.
“If UT was just an isolated (campus) like A&M, then the only types of incidents and crimes would be student-related,” Nguyen said. “Whereas because UT is in the heart of Austin, there’s a lot of stuff (going on).”
Nutrition junior David Van, who stayed on campus for part of the break, said he appreciated seeing UTPD out patrolling despite the relatively small amount of people present on campus.
“I still (saw) them patrolling around even though (I’d) barely seen anyone on campus,” Van said. “So that’s still good, that even though the activity is still quiet, they’re still patrolling around.”