UT implements new safety policies following DPS review

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

UT President Gregory Fenves emailed the University community Wednesday afternoon about the Department of Public Safety’s completed campus safety evaluation.

In his email, Fenves highlighted several safety suggestions from the DPS report, including updating video surveillance, increasing the amount of patrol officers, legislating policy regarding the homeless population near campus and providing greater visibility. The DPS report comes five months after freshman Haruka Weiser’s death last semester.

“There weren’t any real surprises in their findings, but what was very impressive was the level of detail,” Fenves said, adding that DPS included the Pickle campus and residential areas as part of their evaluation.

Fenves added in his email that the full DPS report has sensitive information that could jeopardize campus safety, and therefore will not be released. 

Although University updates released in the past five months regarding increased patrol officers and bike patrol units have reiterated the greater police presence on or near campus, design sophomore Sara Wong isn’t convinced.

“I think if the school adds that stuff it would help, but to be honest they should just stick a police station like right at the corner where the Art Building is, because they don’t really patrol there,” Wong said.

The eastern end of campus, where Weiser’s body was found, includes the fine arts buildings and the Waller Creek area. This area, among other sections of campus, presents unique challenges due to their landscape, said a Campus Safety and Security update. Fenves said the University is in the process of modifying vegetated areas of campus to fix this issue.

“We will be looking at all the areas around the creek,” Fenves said. “We want to have an opportunity for people to enjoy the creekside habitat, and so we’re looking at what’s the right balance between that and safety. Maybe looking at access controls at night, signage and lighting.”

Building access was one of the concerns Fenves mentioned in his email. He explained that some of the most noticeable changes will take place in the evening hours and will affect the entire campus community.

“We will be looking to significantly improve building access control, especially at night,” Fenves said. “That’ll affect operations, building managers, and ultimately it’ll affect all occupants of the building. For example, not to prop doors open to let friends in for a meeting.”

Civil engineering junior Bryan Tamayo said he has been avoiding campus in the evening.

“After the incident that happened, there was a lot of police at night, but after that I really haven’t been on campus at night just to be safe,” Tamayo said.

Not all changes will be obvious or immediate, Fenves said. Part of the suggested changes are still in the planning stages. Technological updates, such as new security cameras, will take more time to be installed. 

“These changes, some of them we have implemented immediately, some of them are going to require some planning,” Fenves said. “For example, video surveillance systems take some time to plan, design and install.”