West Campus vandalism has decreased in the past month because of more proactive patrols by the Austin Police Department, Sgt. Stephen Andreini said.
From scribbles to personal designs, graffiti has always been a problem in West Campus, Andreini said. APD officers target vandals by patrolling either on foot or bicycle at night in hopes of catching the criminals in action.
Andreini said he has seen APD make more arrests for vandalism in the past six months than in all of his five years with the department.
“We patrol four nights every week, starting from 9 p.m. to 9:30 p.m,” Andreini said. “We go when service calls are low, and we patrol West Campus to look for vandals or violent crimes.”
Andreini said spray painting private property is usually classified as a Class B misdemeanor, but vandalizing a church, cemetery or university could be a felony at the judge’s discretion. Vandals are arrested and booked into jail if caught in action, Andreini said.
“First we have to check with the property owners, because we can’t assume that the vandal doesn’t have permission to spray paint,” Andreini said. “Afterward, charges are filed, and the judge will do arraignment and then set bond. It’s a serious crime.”
Andreini said most of the crimes occur late at night or early in the morning, and the criminals are usually in their early 20s.
“Usually the suspects are cooperative, but (sometimes) they are intoxicated and might try to run away,” Andreini said. “Although they’re usually college-aged, they’re often not UT students. We’ll notify UTPD if it’s a student.”
Andreini said vandals often use high-quality paint, so cleaning off the graffiti becomes more expensive.
“West Campus property is high-dollar, and vandalism decreases property value,” Andreini said. “It’s bad for real estate and the general impression on UT. Sometimes vandals will paint over very nice murals too at the Artist Market on Guadalupe Street.”
Management information systems sophomore Ahmed Hashmi said he does not believe spray painting on personal property is an expression of art.
“The graffiti at West Campus left a very bad impression with my parents when they came to visit me,” Hashmi said. “The profanity on my apartment building walls especially made the area look shady and less desirable than it actually is. I’m glad to hear that APD is making more progress on catching the vandals.”
Psychology sophomore Khalid Saeed lives at the Quarters at Sterling House and said the graffiti on the alley wall behind his apartment building makes the area look dangerous.
“I can see how spray painting can make a safe area seem threatening,” Saeed said. “The artistic designs are not so bad, but some of the messages are vulgar and should not be painted onto personal property. I feel bad for the owners, because they’re victims of property damage.”