Chemistry freshman Narexcy Marichalar-Elizo walked into SafeHorns’ second annual West Campus National Night Out with no idea what to expect. After walking out, she said she understands the importance of safety organizations.
“There are so many organizations on campus that are dedicated to my and every other student’s safety,” Marichalar-Elizo said. “I would have never understood the significance of anyone if I hadn’t taken the time to stop and ask.”
National Night Out is a nationwide event that was introduced in 1984 to bring the police and community together. Communities across all 50 states host various forms of this event, which includes cookouts and safety demonstrations.
“The event is a great opportunity to bring UT students and police together to discuss crime as well as get to know each other one-on-one,” said Joell McNew, SafeHorns co-founder and vice president.
SafeHorns was formed in the wake of the murder of UT student Haruka Weiser in April 2016, said McNew, who is also a UT parent. McNew said SafeHorns’ main purpose is to take constructive action to improve safety and security conditions for all members of the UT community, and that creating their own National Night Out builds on this purpose.
“Students are not aware of the fact that there are so many people who are committed to their safety,” McNew said. “It’s always reassuring to know that someone is looking out for you.”
SafeHorns created their own National Night Out last year to focus more specifically on building student and police relationships, McNew said. The event gave students the opportunity to talk to UT and Austin Police Department officers as well as local safety organizations, including SURE Walk and Austin-Travis County Emergency
“(The UT Police Department) invited us to join their National Night Out, but theirs was geared toward the community as a whole,” McNew said. “As important as that is, I wanted to create something that catered to students’ needs.”
UTPD officer Matthew Saucedo said the event really helps the police department take note of what students know and don’t know about safety.
“It’s always interesting to ask students what they know about the police and what they can do to keep themselves safe,” Saucedo said. “Sometimes events like this seem insignificant, but the simple act of telling a student how to protect their personal belongings from thieves is important for police officers.”
McNew said about 150 students came to their first National Night Out and most students said it was informative and fun. The event is one of the reasons why SafeHorns won the Crime Prevention Association of Central Texas’ award for Outstanding Crime Prevention last December, McNew said.
APD’s National Night Out, which was supposed to take place Tuesday, has been rescheduled to Friday, Oct. 20 because of weather concerns.
Marichalar-Elizo said the most interesting thing she learned at National Night Out, which was held at Dobie Twenty21, was that UTPD will give students a free pizza if they report a crime or anything suspicious that leads to the apprehension of a suspect.
“It’s about the most interesting thing I’ve ever heard of any police department doing,” Marichalar-Elizo said. “And it just so happens to be my police department doing it.”