David Carter

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

Violent crimes on UT’s campus more than doubled last year, according to newly released FBI data.

FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting shows a total of 13 violent crimes occurred on campus in 2016 in comparison to just six in 2015. These 13 violent crimes consist of one count of homicide, five counts of rape, three counts of robbery and four counts of aggravated assault.

Nonviolent crimes decreased 15 percent from 2015, with 337 counts of property crimes — ten counts of burglary, 325 counts of larceny theft, two motor vehicle thefts and one count of arson. Burglary occurs when a structure is unlawfully entered with the intent to commit a crime, whereas larceny theft is the unauthorized possession of another’s belongings.

UT Police Department Chief David Carter said the increase is not dramatically higher than previous years in terms of overall crime trends, but said he hopes UT’s violent crime rates will become even lower if possible.

“I think it’s important for police chiefs to never be satisfied when there is even one victim of violent crime,” Carter said. “Our eyes are always looking at the path moving forward using the best practices and an active community engagement as well as a solid policing foundation.”

Carter said although there are issues within the greater Austin area, UT remains a relatively safe community.

“This is a university that has grown in complexity and infrastructure,” Carter said. “We had the addition of a medical school and more sophisticated buildings. The police have to catch up to that and that takes time.”

Petroleum engineering sophomore Mitchel Broten said additions to the UT landscape have provided him with more safe spaces.

“Places like the new engineering building definitely made me want to stay on campus more,” Broten said. “If there’s a nice and safe space to study at then I would definitely go more often.”

The majority of reported cases of violent crimes are interpersonal violence such as sexual assault and fights where people involved know each other, Carter said.

“Police presence makes a great difference to violence between people who don’t know each other,” Carter said. “But in cases of interpersonal violence, police presence is usually not as effective because they usually occur in confined spaces like a private dorm or apartment. These are more aligned with social awareness, which is a big part of crime fighting.”

Biology sophomore Sebastian Calderon said he thinks the UT community is not the source of violent crimes.

“Austin has a complex growing population that’s causing many changes in the area,” Calderon said. “It’s (population from) the remote areas surrounding UT that concerns student safety.”

Carter said UTPD will combat interpersonal violence by installing the District Liaison Officer Program, which subdivides the UT campus into eight districts, each of which will have a point of contact with a lead police officer.

“A safe community is where the community itself is engaged and has good connectivity with the police,” Carter said. “In my belief, a police force is a catalyst to a safe community as long as we’re visible and approachable. The students have to actively reach out to the police and vice versa.”

A police officer rides a bike down Guadalupe Street.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

When the University of Texas Police Department received a bomb threat earlier this month, officers quickly went to sweep the area near the Butler School of Music — but did not send a text alert to students about the situation. UTPD is looking into ways to better disseminate information to the community, UTPD Chief David Carter said.

According to Carter, the officers’ first job is to respond to the situation and then decide what they need to communicate to the community.

“What happens when the police respond in this case — there’s the question of, ‘is this is a false alarm or is this real,’” Carter said. “They have to respond as if it’s real to be prepared in case they discover something. If they had discovered anything or had something had been occurring, then that notification system would have kicked in.”

The police are often the only ones who know about threats made against the University, and they do not publicize threats that are not considered legitimate, Carter said. In the case of the threat last week, Carter said the team went to the scene immediately because they did not know how reliable the information was.

“What it really boils down to is do we believe it’s an actual threat,” Carter said. “We’re not going to wait around.“

After this most recent threat, Carter said UTPD determined that alerts will be sent out telling the campus community to avoid certain areas because of police activity during all high-risk investigations, but the department is still looking to improve communication.

“We also understand [people think] ‘Hey the [police are] here; this is scary looking,’ and so we need to find effective ways to let you all know what’s going on,” Carter said. “I think this is kind of one of those things where we would really like our campus community’s help.”

After seeing posts about last week’s bomb threat on UTPD’s social media channels after the situation had been resolved, some parents and students wanted to know why they had not been informed. 

Biology junior Kathleen Lee, who didn’t have text messaging during a bomb threat in 2012 and was not alerted to the situation, said she urged her parents to add texting to her phone plan so that she could be aware of future incidents.

“I just think that if something big like that is happening, then I need immediate notification of that — it wasn’t really nice to be caught by surprise,” Lee said. “I really wish that they did notify us. I know that they probably don’t want to incite public panic or anything, but if something like that is happening so close … then you have a right to know.”

Lee said she didn’t know about either of the two threats this semester until she saw her friends posting about it on social media.

The rapid pace of communication through these mediums often means people forget to notify police about situations as they develop, Carter said.

“A lot of times folks start communicating on social media, and they’ll assume that [the police] know about it and we don’t,” Carter said.

UTPD officers try to be judicious when determining when to send out alerts, and to whom the alerts should be sent, according to UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey.

“The text messaging system — we already have [more than] 70,000 people signed up for text messages — if we overload that system, if we added every parent that wanted to be alerted, then the messaging would be slower to the people who needed it the fastest,” Posey said.

UTPD chief David Carter assured the UT Faculty Council on Monday afternoon that the police department is prepared to adapt to any change in firearm legislation. In response to Senate Bill 11, the Council unanimously passed a resolution against the concealed carry of firearms on campus.
Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

The UT Faculty Council passed a resolution Monday reaffirming the ban of firearms on campus.

The Council unanimously approved the resolution in response to SB 11, which would allow concealed carry of firearms on campus and within campus buildings.

“The Faculty Council at The University of Texas at Austin reaffirms its belief that carrying firearms, including concealed weapons, on the University campus by anyone other than law enforcement officers is detrimental to the safety of the students, faculty, and staff,” the resolution said. “We endorse Chancellor McRaven’s position on this matter.”

William Beckner, Faculty Council chair and math professor, said administrators at other universities have also spoken out against firearms on campus.

“We and many other campuses in Texas have passed, since 2009, similar statements,” Beckner said. “I think it was very important that Chancellor McRaven articulated a good argument for why this is not good for our campus.”

President Powers said, at this time, it is not possible to know what safety preparations would be necessary should the bill pass in the Texas legislature.

“The safety on the campus in all kinds of ways is something that we spend a lot of time on,” Powers said. “We don’t know exactly what form this legislation could take or whether it will pass, but I can assure you we will take very seriously preparing for whatever the way of the land is to make the campus as safe as possible.”

UTPD chief David Carter said, following adjustments to the law, the police will change how students, staff and faculty are protected.

“In my 31 years as a police officer, I’ve seen many changes in the laws over the years, and we simply have to address and adjust to whatever those are,” Carter said. “I want to assure you that we’re monitoring and will look if there is some sort of a change when laws pass. Then the police department will adjust as it must do so.”

Carter said campus attacks, despite heavy media coverage, are rare. He said students, faculty and staff, however, must always be aware of their surroundings.

“When you look at it, statistically speaking, the odds are very remote that an incident will occur at any one place,” Carter said. “Of course, at the same time here in Austin, we’ve experienced instances just like that.”

Electrical engineering senior Jessica Nguyen, who works as an undergraduate teaching assistant, said she received brief training on how to react in the event of an active shooter on campus and other emergency situations, but said she would like more instruction if the bill passes.

“I think if there was a practice session that would have been better than giving us a video,” Nguyen said. “[It is] like giving CPR. You don’t really know how to do it correctly unless you are trained hands on.”

UTPD officer Jorge Cuellar patrols the 23rd Street Artists’ Market area as part of a new initiative to safen the streets for students. UTPD officers will more frequently patrol West Campus as part of this initiative.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Officers from both UTPD and the Austin Police Department started a more focused initiative to minimize crime homeless people commit on Guadalupe Street. 

APD officer Darrell Grayson said the main area of focus is a 10-block stretch from Martin Luther King Boulevard to 29th Street. 

Grayson said officers have seen a larger congregation of the community’s homeless population around the artists’ market on 23rd Street. Many of those individuals receive services from the surrounding churches, as well as food from some of the businesses, according to Grayson.

The two police forces are working to curb crimes near that area in West Campus.

“What prompted [the initiative] was the aggressive panhandling and the homeless population harassing the vendors there in the square,” Grayson said. 

Although the area along Guadalupe Street and further west of campus is in APD’s territory, UTPD Chief David Carter said all the officers are working together to use all the resources available.

“We want to support our community, and our community that we police and protect is not always strictly on campus, so that’s what we’re doing here,” Carter said. 

Journalism senior Carola Guerrero De Leon said a homeless man assaulted her last July while she was walking along the Drag. 

Guerrero said, besides that instance, she has had very positive experiences with other members of the community but she thinks this new initiative will be helpful to the area.

“These people need help — granted their residential status around the UT community is not what many consider conventional — but they are a big part of our community,” Guerrero said. “Working toward the implementation of a more inclusive system that puts a bigger focus on education rather than punishment is the way to go.”

Carter said officers who are part of the UTPD bike unit are working on becoming more visible to the students who live in West Campus, the businesses along the street and the homeless population to identify particular individuals who are aggressive toward businesses and students on the street.

“We’re getting to better understand the area and the issues surrounding that,” Carter said. 

Carter said both UTPD and APD are increasing their visibility and presence in the area. But the officers are mainly attempting to know students so they will feel comfortable approaching them if they have been having a reoccurring problem with an individual, even if it is not an emergency issue.

“If we get information that there’s somebody who’s being aggressive toward a student … we’re going to try to find out who that person is,” Carter said. “Whether we can actually arrest them or charge them with some kind of crime is obviously dependent, but we’re not simply going to wait around for crime.”

If you see UTPD officers in blue uniforms biking around campus, chances are they’re part of UTPD’s new bike patrol unit, which launched Wednesday.

UTPD Chief David Carter said the new unit was created as a way to increase the awareness and presence of officers on campus.

“The idea is really just to have a more visible presence on campus,” Carter said. “It’s about students feeling comfortable and seeing their officers.” 

The new unit has a fleet of 20 bikes, 12 of which were just purchased for the unit. According to Carter, five full-time officers will
patrol campus. 

“This is a full-time unit, so these guys are like a rapid response for us,” Carter said. “If we see a rising trend in incidents, we’ll focus on that area.”

Carter said officers will patrol on and near campus, especially during times when students are on campus. 

“We’ll be patrolling on campus, west of campus and really anywhere there’s a safety concern,” Carter said. “The unit will be on campus mostly on days when students are here, but they’ll be flexible and can respond on weekends and evenings as well.”

Carter said the bike unit will make it easier for officers to respond quickly to incidents and get to areas where patrol cars might not be a feasible mode of transportation. 

“Let’s face it — there are issues of traffic congestion, pedestrian congestion, bicycle congestion and all of those things make it difficult to patrol in a police car at times,” Carter said. “We’re looking to focus this unit in areas that are difficult to access with a patrol car, like the West Mall. If we were to come around [campus] in a car, it would take us a few extra minutes. But these guys on bikes — they’ll be able to beat the traffic.”

According to Carter, this is the first time UTPD has had a full-time bike unit. 

Carter said the plan for a bike unit has been under construction since the first few months of his appointment as police chief in July 2013.

“I’ve wanted to do something like this ever since I got here, but we had the chance to look at how we operate and actually have the staffing and manpower to make it possible,” Carter said. “We had eight new officers that got cut loose on their own, so that freed up some people for me to start this unit.” 

Carter said he hopes the new unit will encourage students to feel comfortable around officers and report any suspicious incidents. 

“I want students to know that we’re not doing this as a thing to clamp down on them, but we really just want the students to be comfortable and talk to the officers,” Carter said. “Sometimes, students notice something strange or suspicious, but then they don’t report it. This is a way to encourage students to let officers know what’s going on.”

UTPD Police Chief David Carter joined a group of local law enforcement officials in a press conference Wednesday to caution students about alcohol abuse in preparation for spring break.

Carter said while underage drinking is not condoned, UTPD recognizes the commonality of drinking among college students.

“Clearly our preference, if you’re under the age of 21, is that you don’t drink because it’s illegal to do so,” Carter said. “However, we do understand the majority of college students actually do from time to time drink, and many of those students are actually underage.”

According to Carter, heavy alcohol consumption can lead to sexual assault.

“One in five college women are sexually assaulted, and the vast majority of those cases actually involve alcohol,” Carter said. “Go with friends. Have a plan before you go out.”

Carter also encouraged students to call 911 in alcohol-related medical emergencies, even if the students involved are underage.

“If you find one of your friends who is in medical distress, even if you’re underage, we need you to call 911,” Carter said. “Understand that you will not receive an alcohol citation or violation if you’re actually trying to help your friend out.”

Doug Shupe, a public affairs specialist for AAA, an auto club membership organization that offers roadside assistance, warned against riding with drunk drivers as well as drunk driving.

“Drinking and driving is never safe,” Shupe said. “The decision you make to never drink and drive and never get into a car trapped with someone who’s drunk is one of the most crucial decisions you will ever make in your lifetime, and that’s because you will live to talk about it.”

Shupe said preventing DWI incidents is a shared responsibility.

“DWI affects everyone here in Texas. It affects pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers and runners,” Shupe said. “Because we are still losing lives as a result of DWI, there is clearly a continuing need to talk about this.”

Resident Assistants Katelyn Czarnecki, Mitchell Burket, and Oluchi Ifebi kareoke during National Night Out hosted by DHFS at Jester on Tuesday night. 

Photo Credit: Debby Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

Thousands of UT students and Austin residents participated in National Night Out, a nationwide event fostering community involvement in crime prevention,
on Tuesday.

National Night Out was introduced in 1984 by the National Association of Town Watch, a non-profit organization that promotes and develops a variety of crime prevention programs in conjunction with neighborhood watch groups, state and regional crime prevention associations, businesses and law enforcement agencies. The event is designed to promote involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community relationships and neighborhood camaraderie. UT has participated since the program’s beginning. 

Currently, the program involves over 37 million people and 15,000 communities from all 50 states, U.S. Territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide.

“It’s a chance for communities to come together, meet law enforcement and take a stand against crime,” UTPD officer Layne Brewster said.

The Jester, Duren and Creekside dorms hosted National Night Out parties attended by UTPD officers. From noon to 4 p.m., officers greeted students in
Gregory Plaza.

Students were encouraged to learn about the dangers of drinking while driving by wearing Fatal Vision Goggles, a tool used to simulate the effects of alcohol on a person’s vision. While wearing the goggles, students practiced throwing beanbags at targets to demonstrate how hand-eye coordination is impaired.

“In a controlled environment like this, you can put the goggles on and just see what it’d be like,” officer Irene Benavides said. “It’s about as close as we can get without actually putting students behind the wheel.”

UTPD chief David Carter, who began his term on July 1, said he was excited to be establishing a positive rapport with students. Awareness and strong communication are qualities of a safe community, according to Carter.  

“Safety is about community, and I think that’s really important,” Carter said. 

Individual National Night Out parties take place in neighborhoods across the country every year on the first Tuesday of August. In Texas, the date was moved to October because of the heat.

“National Night Out is for community awareness, but also so that residents can see law enforcement officers outside of negative situations,” said Robbie Barrera, a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper. “They can see that we are real people and we are part of the community.”

Mechanical engineering freshman Skylar Wong said she felt more connected to UTPD officers after
the event.

“I feel like now they are more interactive,” Wong said. “Now that they’re here, they’re approachable.”

Mallory Foutch, a senior English and history double major, said she felt UTPD’s presence on campus had a positive effect on students. 

“I’m an RA, so we already do a lot of presentations and work with the fire marshal on campus and police officers,” Foutch said. “But it’s good to see more UTPD presence on the campus through things like National Night Out. I think it’s a good effort.”

Gregory Vincent, vice president for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, issued a statement to UT students saying that water balloon attacks in West Campus are more than just “school yard pranks.” But according to the victims, criminal investigations into the attacks may be fizzling. 

According to Eduardo Belalcazar, an international relations and global studies junior who had a water balloon thrown at him outside 26 West on Sept. 7, authorities in charge of handling his case have been lax in their follow-up investigation, although he said he has not pressed the matter further.

“UTPD hasn’t contacted me [and] neither has APD,” Belalcazar said. “The University just gave me some type of outreach, but when I asked what the school was doing about it, they didn’t respond. It’s just a very disheartening thing for me to see the lack of importance that this has on my campus. I honestly don’t know what else I could do.”

Because he was not actually hit by the balloon, Belalcazar is at a legal impasse, according to UTPD chief of police David Carter.

“If there’s no crime that can be prosecuted because it fails to meet the criteria listed in the penal code, then we’re limited to what we can do,” Carter said. “That’s why we wanted to know if there was bleach or some caustic chemical in the balloon that can hurt somebody. That would be more than a class C misdemeanor and could conceivably be prosecuted.”

An attempted water balloon attack that does not cause physical harm would fall well below what is considered “criminal,” Carter said. 

“If somebody attempts to commit a crime, it’s usually considered one level of offense below, in terms of the penalty group,” Carter said.

According to Carter, penalty groups include capital felony, first-, second- and third-degree felonies, as well as misdemeanors A, B and C.

“A Class C misdemeanor for assault, which refers to assaults by physical contact, is the very lowest of its kind,” Carter said. “There’s nothing below that. So if an assault is attempted, it’s not even on the legal spectrum. It can’t be prosecuted.”

University Towers is currently investigating the Aug. 22 balloon attack on government senior Bryan Davis, which occurred outside the apartment complex. Davis said police have suspended his case until further evidence is produced.

Ronnie Davis, community manager for University Towers, said the complex could not give specific information as to whether anyone has been caught or evicted.

Gina Cowart, a spokeswoman for American Campus Community, which manages several West Campus apartment complexes, including 26 West, could not be reached for comment.

Carter said he ultimately thinks incidents such as water balloon attacks are issues best handled at the administrative level.

“Just because certain incidents can’t be prosecuted as crimes, that doesn’t mean that [they’re] not wrong,” Carter said. “It may mean that the incident should be handled at the administrative level. For instance, there’s Student Judicial Services, and their jurisdiction is primarily on campus, but they can respond to certain incidents that occur off campus.”

According to Vincent, students responsible for the attacks in West Campus are held accountable under the University’s disciplinary system.

Though its name implies a tacit affiliation to UT’s main campus, the area commonly known as West Campus is entirely divorced from the University. For UTPD chief of police David Carter, the disconnect between his primary jurisdiction and the infamously rowdy hotspot across the street needs to be amended. 

“The area known as West Campus is essentially an extension of the main campus,” Carter said. “If I believe there is a crime trend in the area, I want to be able to patrol there.”

UTPD officers have primary jurisdiction on University property, which includes the main campus and off-campus districts like the J.J. Pickle Research Center and University housing for married students. This limits what UTPD can do in an area like West Campus, which is city property.

UTPD's proximity to West Campus facilitates the investigation of incidents in the area and makes them a valued asset to enforcement there, APD and UTPD officials agree.

“We want to help our students if they feel victimized,” Carter said. “We have a population that lives on campus, but the majority live off campus and they’re going back and forth. I would like UTPD to be responsive to our campus community anywhere it might go. I’m committed to taking the resources I have and creating a stronger presence in these areas.”

Carter said he sees the campus community as an organic being, one that flows and shifts rapidly.

“I need to be responsive to that,” Carter said. “It’s more important for a campus police department to be more flexible than others because the community is constantly changing.”

Carter said he remembers a time when issues of jurisdiction were akin to “turf wars” between different law enforcement agencies. 

“Jurisdictional boundaries used to be a big deal. In the past, if the police responded to the city limit and an incident was occuring, they would stop,” Carter said. “Whether the police could have done something to address the incident, they probably could. But they didn’t. Historically, there have been instances where the police have said, ‘well, that’s over there and that’s your problem’.” 

In a post-Sept. 11 society, however, coordination between law enforcement has become commonplace, Carter said. 

Currently, the Austin Police Department has primary jurisdiction in West Campus, also known as their Baker Sector.

UTPD has strong ties with APD, and according to APD Lt. Tyson McGowan, who oversees the region, it’s as if the two departments work in the same office.

However, McGowan said UTPD lacks the resources to police the area according to Carter’s vision but would be in favor of giving the department more jurisdiction in the area. 

“UTPD doesn’t have enough resources to handle that large of a population,” McGowan said. “Even if they are a little closer geographically, given the amount of man power they have, they’d probably need a lot of help. I think coordination between the two is a lot better.”

Although UTPD has seen a steady increase in their personnel since 2007, as of August, the department has only 66 officers on staff. 

In contrast, more than 1,700 officers make up APD, 72 of which are authorized to patrol the area on the daily, APD public information specialist Jennifer Herber said.

“If things that are affecting the campus community are happening two blocks off campus, I need the ability to go and be present there,” Carter said, “but I do not have sufficient resources to fully assume all of APD’s responsibilities off campus.”

Carter said he is assessing staffing and growth within the department but will make the most of resources currently afforded. He said a pay increase for officers enacted in January is a positive step forward. 

“If we identify a crime trend, something that truly affects the physical safety of students, or even in those cases where there is only a perceived trend, those are the things we want analysis on,” Carter said. “If we pick up on those things, it will facilitate the ability to increase our presence in West Campus.”

Correction: In the Sept. 18 article on UTPD’s jurisdiction, several facts were printed incorrectly. UTPD can take legal action in West Campus, even though the area is not in their primary jurisdiction. Also, UTPD currently employs 66 police officers. The number printed in the article pertained to their total personnel.

A freshman new to the 40 Acres sheds a tear while discussing racial relations on the University campus during a rally Wednesday.

Photo Credit: Dan Resler | Daily Texan Staff

Feelings of unrest spurred in a rally yesterday to oppose perceived racial insensitivity on campus after a balloon was thrown at government senior Bryan Davis while he was walking outside the University Towers apartment complex on Aug. 22. According to officials, the balloon — originally alleged to have been filled with bleach — was likely filled with water.  

Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, said preliminary tests showed the balloon was filled with water.

In response to the incident, a rally was held in front the Martin Luther King Jr. Statue in the East Mall. It was organized by the Black Student Alliance on the 50th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. At the rally, UTPD Chief of Police David Carter, who was among several UT officials in attendance, said the protest was a positive step forward in ensuring the safety of students on and off campus. 

“[Last week’s] incident doesn’t appear to be a hate crime,” Carter said. “Regardless, it created a sense of fear. People ultimately police themselves, and a safe community is one in which people have an open dialog and understand the impact of something like this.”

Carter said the investigation into the alleged bleach bombing is ongoing. On Tuesday, Davis met with UTPD officers to deliver the socks, shorts and shirt he was wearing on the day of the incident. 

The clothing was sent off to an independent forensics lab for further testing. UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said the University will pay $500 to have the clothing analyzed and said she is uncertain as to when the test results will be made available. 

Speakers at the rally maintained that racism and bigotry are prevalent in many facets of UT culture and urged UT officials to address issues of race. Racist targeting of students in West Campus is a common occurrence and is indicative of larger issues within the University, said Snehal Shingavi, an assistant English professor who spoke at the rally.

“Whether there’s bleach in the balloon or not, the sentiment behind that balloon is exactly the same,” Shingavi said. “You are not welcome here if you’re different … These things continue to happen, but the response both from students and the University is inconsistent.”

Rally attendees were invited to share their stories of racial injustice. 

Government junior Mirusha Yogarajah said students of color feel unsafe in West Campus, an area she claims is dominated by a largely white population.

Vincent said throwing balloons filled with any substance is considered an assault, which is a criminal offense, and is punishable under chapter 11 of the University’s Institutional Rules and Regulations.

“Any person who believes such actions are merely schoolyard pranks is mistaken,” Vincent said.

Cpl. David Boyd, a public information officer for the Austin Police Department, said the department is still waiting for the victim’s official statement but added that a detective has been assigned to the investigation. Without a sworn statement, Boyd said, Davis will be unable to press charges. 

“It’s difficult to say whether this investigation will yield anything,” Boyd said. “Once the statement is made, then the investigation can proceed.”