UT officials face a difficult trade-off between the safety and accessibility of campus buildings, according to Bob Harkins, the associate vice president of Campus Safety and Security.
UTPD crime statistics show that, in the past six years, criminal trespassing was reported most frequently in Webb Hall, the Union Building, the Student Activity Center, Jester Center and the Perry-Castaneda Library.
Harkins said most facilities, while not public, are generally open to the public during daytime hours, meaning anyone can access UT buildings when they are open.
“If you live around here, you understand that there are a lot of people that hang out around places,” Harkins said. “Only when they’re in an area they’re not authorized to be in after hours, or they’re creating some type of a nuisance, do we then approach them.”
UTPD Lt. Gonzalo Gonzalez said higher criminal trespass rates for Webb Hall and the Union Building could be a result of the buildings’ locations.
“They’re right next to Guadalupe Street,” Gonzalez said. “I can tell you that’s why I would guess those two would be on the list.”
Harkins said campus buildings attract homeless individuals because they provide clean water, food and a break from the weather.
Buildings such as the Union, the SAC and the PCL are heavily populated with students, who sometimes leave their belongings unattended, making them vulnerable to theft.
“People will tend to lay down personal property and walk away from it, then we’ve got the threat of thefts that we’re trying to balance out all the time,” Harkins said.
Laurie Lentz, communications manager for Campus Planning & Facilities Management, said while criminal trespassing does not frequently interfere with the management of buildings, trespassers occasionally cause disruption for custodial services personnel.
“It’s sort of episodic — things will happen occasionally and it’ll be kind of a mess, but there’s no really consistent pattern with it other than that typically what’s affected are the restrooms,” Lentz said. “Generally, it would be homeless people using UT restrooms to clean up and they may leave paper towel waste on the floor or splash a lot of water around, and then the custodial team will need to come clean it up.”
Campus Safety and Security is working to install electronic access locks in all campus buildings. Currently, 64 of the 238 main campus buildings are equipped with these locks, which require a UT ID card for entry.
“What those do is they give us the capability to provide a safer environment for students that are studying late in small groups or even by themselves,” Harkins said. “We’re moving through campus as quickly as we can to get more funding to be able to do more of the buildings.”