For the past year, the UT Police Department’s detailed crime rundown has made a weekly, instead of daily, appearance in the inbox of its subscribers.
“We switched to a weekly format last year instead of a daily format just because some of the feedback that we got said that we were sending too many emails, (and) they were going unread,” said Michael Murphy, UTPD officer on the Community Outreach Unit.
UTPD’s Campus Watch, which comes to subscribers in the form of an email, differs from UT’s texts and safety email alerts that are required by law. It is not an emergency notification or timely warning but a list of selected daily crimes reported to UTPD.
“When (University) Communications sends out an email, it typically means that there is some criminal activity that occurred, and the campus community needs to know about it because there’s a safety concern or we’re asking you to avoid the area,” said Murphy, who is responsible for sending out Campus Watch reports. “Whereas, Campus Watch is something that you read during your work day or class day just to stay aware of what’s going on around you, but it’s not designed to communicate immediacy.”
In 2017, UTPD sent out 50 Campus Watch reports, which was noticeably smaller when compared to the last few years. UTPD sent out an average of more than 200 Campus Watch reports per year from 2014–2016. As of now, 19,420 people have subscribed to Campus Watch emails, according to the UT Lists website.
When looking at how many Campus Watch reports were sent out in 2017 compared to previous years, radio-television-film sophomore Kaia Daniel was curious as to why the reports dwindled.
“It seems like they stopped putting much effort into it, which can be a cause of concern because I doubt crime has decreased significantly in just one year,” Daniel said.
UTPD is not required by federal or state law to send out Campus Watch reports, but has been doing so for over a decade, Murphy said.
In the future, the format of Campus Watch could stray away from traditional emails, Murphy said, but the decision is not definite.
“Moving forward we’re looking at maybe changing formats,” Murphy said. “Instead of sending an email we might just post on Facebook or Twitter once a week the same information, but put it in a different format.”
Radio-television-film sophomore Joshua Summers said less Campus Watch emails could worry UT parents who prefer to have a comprehensive report about campus crime.
“I know as a 19, 20-year-old that that’s usually the last thing on my mind,” Summers said. “Being able to stay up to date and have your comprehensive check is, I’d say speaking for my parents at least, a very important aspect of that.”
As of now, UTPD has yet to send out a Campus Watch report in 2018.
“The Campus Watch will continue in one form or another for the foreseeable future, and so far, as I’m aware, there’s no conversation about ending it because it is a useful tool,” Murphy said. “We’re just considering what’s the most efficient way to get this information out.”
Students can subscribe to the Campus Watch through the UTPD website.