Since the beginning of the spring semester, it seems as if UT students are getting more campus crime alerts than Snapchats. Whether it is the infamous Subway burglary or the forced entry at the United Methodist Church, these crimes have contributed to an increased feeling of uneasiness both on and around campus.
The visibility of these events has caused many students to vocalize a fear of feeling unsafe in their own neighborhoods — particularly West Campus, where many of these crimes have occurred. This fear is driven more than anything by the high profile of these events, rather than actual statistics.
The popularly-held belief by students that West Campus an unsafe place to live is inaccurate. Through an examination of the neighborhood’s crime rate per capita, it is evident that West Campus is a fairly safe place to live.
In 2016, the Austin Police Department reported a relatively high 2,650 occurrences of crime in the zip code 78705, which encompasses the West Campus neighborhood and most of UT-student residences. While at first glance this number may seem high, it is neither a fair nor accurate representation of the actual risks that the area poses to students. It’s also important to note the largest category of these are property, and not violent, crimes.
An estimate by the United States Census Bureau places the total population of the 78705 zip code at 31,340 people. Dividing the rate of crime by the total population places the crime rate at .084 crimes per person. In other words, each person living within this area has about an 8 percent chance annually of being involved in a crime.
Still not convinced? Let’s look to the city of Austin as a whole. APD reported a grand total of 115,367 crimes in all Austin area zip codes in the year 2016 when the population of the city as a whole was estimated at 931,830. Based on these statistics, Austin’s per capita crime rate is .124 crimes, which is only marginally lower than the 78705 rate. While there are only 3,004 people living per square mile in Austin, recent data places the number at around 17,000 people per square mile within West Campus.
Simply put, the per capita crime rates of West Campus and the city of Austin are extremely close to one another but West Campus is almost six times more densely populated. These statistics show that you are no more likely to experience a crime in West Campus than in the city of Austin as a whole.
Furthermore, the increased frequency of text alerts are not an indication of increased frequency in crime. They’re simply part of the UT Police Department’s new policy of using their communication system to alert students of off-campus crime.
I am not suggesting that students should not keep their guard up. Living in an urban area makes it important to be alert and cautious at all times. However, UT students living in West Campus must keep a level head when discussing crime rates in their neighborhood and analyze all the data before they let fear set in. While there is always room for community improvement, we must first be honest about our communities.
Braaten is a international relations and global studies junior from Conroe.