UTPD

Biology senior Quan Nguyen tests out All-state’s Reality Rides simulator which gives users a hands-on experience with the potential dangers of texting and driving. Drivers who text are 23 times more likely to crash than drivers impaired after drinking four beers.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

In an effort to demonstrate the risks associated with texting while driving, students tested their abilities to multitask behind the wheel in a simulation on campus sponsored by UTPD and Allstate’s Reality Rides initiative. 

The event, held Monday, was part of Reality Rides’ nationwide tour designed to educate university communities on the life-threatening risks of distracted driving, according to Kelly Conway, co-founder of the Fleming and Conway branch for Allstate Insurance.

“The reason we are targeting college campuses is because the number one killer of people between the ages of 11 to 27 is actually auto accidents, and one of the most common things that cause these accidents is using cell phones while driving,” Conway said.

The City of Austin passed a municipal ordinance last year that made using a handheld device while driving a citable offense associated with up to $500 in fines. APD has issued nearly 1,000 citations since the ordinance came into effect on Jan. 1, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

UTPD urges students to refrain from using handheld devices in their cars, UTPD officer William Pieper said.

“[The ordinance] is not something we enforce on campus because it is a city ordinance, and the campus is state property, but we understand how serious of a problem it is, and we encourage students to dedicate themselves to not be texting while driving,” Pieper said.

The widespread and incessant use of technology has made it difficult for police departments to convince people of the risks of texting while driving, Pieper said.

“When using technology becomes such a norm to do, it always becomes a natural thing to use it while driving,” Pieper said. “So getting them to realize that this is something dangerous is challenging. No text is that important. No phone call is that important.”

A lack of education regarding vehicular risks causes many students to take distracted driving lightly, according to mathematics sophomore Joseph Garcia.

“What we students consider one of the most benign objects, [vehicles], are actually the deadliest objects we encounter on a regular basis,” Garcia said. “I feel that if this was part of freshman education, we would be more aware of the risks involved in driving.”

UTPD considers distracted driving to be as deadly as driving while intoxicated, as they can both lead to fatal consequences, Pieper said.

“Whether it’s drunk driving or texting while driving, it only takes a second of inattention to cause something that could lead to some devastating consequences,”
Pieper said.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Julie Gillespie

Ten women serve as officers win UTPD, making up 16 percent of the staff, and that number is higher than the national average of 13 percent among police departments nationwide.

Julie Gillespie started her career at UTPD in 1987 as a security guard after graduating from UT with an education degree.

Gillespie, now retired, worked at UTPD for 28 years in multiple positions. During her tenure, Gillespie became the first female lieutenant and the first female captain. 

When Gillespie started working at UTPD, she said there were a handful of female officers and only two female sergeants. 

“I remember going to training classes and staff meetings where I was the only female, but, since then, I think policing has taken a very strong part in recruiting women,” Gillespie said. “It was tough, but you have to realize we’re all the same, and everybody wants the same thing and are working toward the same goals.” 

Diversity in the workplace is important regardless of the industry because it brings different perspectives to the job, according to Gillespie. 

“Women bring a totally different perspective to policing,” Gillespie said. “Usually you have to have the brut and the physical strength, but women bring more intellect, and they think through things, and we’re not so quick to get into physical fights because we’re trying to use our brain instead of our strength, so it’s good to have both.” 

When Gillespie left UTPD, she said 22 percent of the sworn officers were women. As more women joined the force, Gillespie said she and other female officers helped mentor them. 

“All the women were kind of a tight knit-group, and I still catch up with some of the women that went on to other jobs,” Gillespie said. “I still keep in touch with them and mentor them. It’s fulfilling to mentor young officers.”

Gillespie helped mentor and welcome  Lt. Laura Davis when she first came to work for UTPD. Davis started her career at UTPD after selling diamonds in a jewelry store while she was waiting for her application to be processed for the Secret Service, she said.

After meeting her husband during her training at the police academy and having a child, Davis said she decided to stay at UTPD because she liked the work she was doing.

Although female officers are a minority in the makeup of UTPD’s force, Davis said she doesn’t notice it often.

“It’s noticeable, but it’s not,” Davis said. “I’ve got several females on my shift, and so it’s funny because we don’t have many people in the locker room. You’re so used to doing your job, so you’re not really thinking about it.”

Rhetoric and writing senior Bria Moore said she has only seen female officers a few times, but, when she does see them, she notices them immediately. 

“Female officers do catch my eye because they are female, and it’s still a slightly unusual thing to see,” Moore said. “This isn’t prime-time TV where every other cop is some strong-willed, independent yet always gorgeous phenom. Many workplaces are still pretty gendered.” 

Besides working the evening shift, Davis is the coordinator for the Rape Aggression Defense System for UT and the rest of Texas. Putting on the three-day class allows Davis to empower other women and females on campus, she said. 

“What we get to do is teach self defense to women across campus, and I’m very proud that UT is such a strong supporter in that program,” Davis said. “You know a lot of the students who come here come from a small town, and they’re meeting new friends and having their experiences, but what we’ve said is we believe in this program so much we want to teach self defense so they can rely on themselves and feel safe on campus.” 

Davis said she started teaching the class in 2001 and said she enjoys helping other women protect themselves. 

“In those three days, you see a true reliance on themselves that they didn’t know they had, and it’s just life-changing,” Davis said. “You may get a girl who’s never said no, and then on that third night, she’s in a situation where she has to fight her way out, and you see this change, and she’s very proud. It’s not that see didn’t have that in her before, but it’s just a different aspect.”

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Wednesday, as part of Cop Day on Speedway plaza, students climbed into a SWAT vehicle, practiced their Taser skills and learned about fingerprinting. 

As a part of UT’s Safety Week, UTPD, the Division of Recreational Sports and Student Government hosted Cop Day. The event brings law enforcement agencies from Central Texas together to help students get to know law enforcement and learn what they do on a day-to-day basis. 

“Our goal is to allow students to come out and interact with the officers and … get to know them a little bit so they understand we’re not just out there to get them — we’re actually here to help the community and be a part of the community,” said William Pieper, UTPD Crime Prevention specialist and author of Campus Watch.

Students had the chance to view equipment from UTPD’s Criminal Investigation Unit and see a Taser demonstration put on by UTPD officers. While using training Tasers, students fired at a cardboard target of a suspect and tried to hit certain body regions. Detective Michael Riojas said the Tasers work best in close range when officers have a wider area of a suspect’s body to aim at. 

“On the inside, there’s some probes, and it’s like a little, tiny harpoon to catch onto the body or the clothing,” Riojas said. “If some people aren’t affected by it, it means you didn’t get a good spread on it, and it didn’t stick onto the clothing.” 

Deputies from the Travis County SWAT response team also attended the event and explained their job to students. Deputy Joseph Zahn said the SWAT vehicle, which carries 10 to 14 officers and goes on 60 to 80 operations per year, is used in search warrants, barricades and other high-risk situations. 

“It pretty much goes out for everything, unless it’s too big of a vehicle to get out in certain areas,” Zahn said. 

Undeclared sophomore Anggie Atocha said seeing the SWAT truck allowed her to learn about something she would not normally experience.

“It’s something that you only see on TV, but when you see it for real, and all the equipment that they have, and what they do, it’s pretty cool,” Atocha said. 

Kinesiology graduate student Donald Robinson said he was surprised by how relaxed and open the officers were compared to his previous experiences around police. 

“At my old school, I worked as an RA, and … calling the police there, I always just felt kind of edgy and uncomfortable, but here, people seemed a little bit more friendly than I would expect,” Robinson said. 

Atocha said the event made her more aware of what UTPD and other law enforcement agencies do on campus. 

“I think it’s a good thing to see the security on campus, even though you don’t see them all the time,” Atocha said. “It’s nice to know that they’re watching out for students.”

A man died after falling from the San Antonio parking garage early Friday morning, according to UTPD spokesperson Rhonda Weldon.

Weldon said UTPD received a call about the incident around 12:10 a.m., and when officers arrived, the man was pronounced dead at the scene. According to Weldon, officers estimate the man fell approximately 70 feet from the garage. Weldon said the man was not affiliated with the University. 

UTPD is still investigating the incident, Weldon said. 

"We don't have any witnesses, so we are unable to determine the circumstances of the fall at this time," Weldon said. 

UTPD also investigated another incident involving a fall from the garage Sept. 24. According to Weldon, UTPD has found no link between the two incidents. 

Students bike through the intersection of 24th and Speedway streets Tuesday morning. Intersections with dense vehicular traffic are prone to bicycle collisions, most of which go unreported on campus.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Two hundred ninety-eight bicycle collisions happened in Austin last year, according to statistics from the Austin Police Department, but UTPD crime prevention officer William Pieper said most bicycle accidents go unreported on campus.

Pieper said people involved in bike collisions on campus usually do not report them to UTPD. 

“It has been my experience that people tend to only report a bicycle accident to the police when there is an injury or major damage,” Pieper said. “Most bicycle accidents go unreported by the parties involved.”

Pieper said UTPD is only required to file crash reports with the Texas Department of Public Safety when a motor vehicle is involved. Collisions involving only pedestrians or cyclists are documented as incident reports, which is an internal report used to document criminal offenses or any incident requiring action by the police.

“Collisions between bicyclists and pedestrians, bicyclists and other bicyclists, or bicyclist and a fixed object are not required to be documented on a crash form,” Pieper said.  

Anna Sabana, APD public information manager, said APD reported 10 bicycle collisions in West Campus last year and a total of 298 collisions citywide. APD follows similar procedures to UTPD in reporting bicycle collisions, with a crash report only being required if a motor vehicle is involved.

Pieper said most bike crashes on campus occur in areas with heavy traffic or hills.

“I would state most [crashes] occur where there is dense traffic … like 24th and Speedway, and 21st and Speedway,” Pieper said. “I have seen other collisions where bicycle speed is a factor — the 23rd Street hill, the 24th Street hill and the 21st Street hill.”

According to data from the Texas Department of Transportation, the most common streets near campus where bicycle collisions occur are Guadalupe and Speedway streets, with a combined total of 102 crashes happening on the two streets over the past four years.

Most crashes happen because of a lack of attention on the path of a cyclist, pedestrian or driver, according to Pieper.

“Typically bicycle-involved collisions happen because one party fails to observe or yield right-of-way to another. Often times, a pedestrian steps in front of a bicyclist, or a bicyclist or motor vehicle fails to stop at a stop sign,” Pieper said. 

Pieper said UTPD has partnered with the University’s Parking and Transportation Services to work on bike safety presentations and initiatives. PTS offers free online classes to improve cyclists’ traffic safety skills. 

Mathematics junior Clarissa Rodriguez said she was involved in a crash on Speedway a few months ago but did not report it to UTPD. 

“I braked really hard behind someone, and I sort of rammed into their back tire,” Rodriguez said. “Nothing too bad happened.”

Rodriguez said she thinks cyclists often do not look where they’re going or ride too fast, which could contribute to collisions.

“I’d say people on bikes are usually not as safe as pedestrians, but it should be the other way around,” Rodriguez said.

UTPD is investigating an incident involving a drone that flew over Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday night during the Longhorns’ first football game of the season.

Drones, also referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles, are aircraft without a human pilot on board. They are controlled by onboard computers or remote control, and used in surveillance, law enforcement, photography and military operations.

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said police observed an unauthorized drone in and around the stadium during the game against the University of North Texas and watched as it maneuvered and landed on San Jacinto Boulevard.

Officers located the operator, a UT student, who was detained and transported to the police station, Posey said. The student was then identified, questioned and released pending further investigation.

According to Posey, officers seized and confiscated the drone.

“Our top priority is the safety our students, employees, fans and visitors,” UTPD said in a statement. “UTPD Chief David Carter stresses that we are concerned about the use of drones and are investigating the incident thoroughly. The University continually works with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to maintain the highest levels of safety on our campus.”

Laws governing drones are still evolving, and they are currently regulated under state law with the same guidelines that apply to model airplanes, although the Federal Aviation Administration has some oversight.

The FAA permits model aircraft to fly below 400 feet if they are away from airports and air traffic and stay within sight of the operator.

Under Texas state law, drone pilots are required to have permission from property owners to shoot aerial images of their property, with violations costing offenders up to $1,000 for every image they take.

Posey said since the incident is still under investigation, it is uncertain whether the student will face charges or possible fines.

University police alerted the campus of a subject carrying a knife near the Main Building on Wednesday morning, but determined shortly after the person did not pose a threat to those on campus.

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said a staff member saw what they thought to be a knife, but when officers found the subject there was no threat at all. An all clear message was sent out approximately 15 minutes after the initial message after police found the subject.

The text notification came a day after UTPD alerted the UT community of an aggravated assault on Guadalupe Street on Tuesday. APD later determined the victim and suspects knew each other and posed no threat to the campus area.

 

After being assaulted while walking to her office on June 26, graduate student Cindy Walter-Gensler recounted the event for her students and said she wondered why there had not been an alert sent to the student body about the event.

Walter-Gensler said she was walking down Dean Keeton around 8:30 a.m. when a man blocked her path and then grabbed onto her, leaving bruises on her arms and hands.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt that helpless in my whole life,” Walter-Gensler said. “I was so paralyzed I couldn’t scream, I couldn’t try to get away … or anything. And he just laughed at me … and it was not a good feeling. I really didn’t know what was going to happen next.”

Walter-Gensler said she reported the incident to UTPD and was told they had already taken the man into custody. 

According to the Campus Crime Watch email from UTPD, the man had touched others on campus and was exhibiting odd behavior.

Walter-Gensler said she was told by UTPD that an alert was not sent out because the man had been caught and no one had pressed charges before her.

The previous week, UTPD sent an email to all faculty, staff and students after a sexual assault was reported at San Jacinto Hall. UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said notifications depend on which category an incident falls under.

Posey said the University is required to send out alerts about sexual assaults because of the Clery Act, but in other situations, UT tries not to inundate the campus body with text and email alerts.

“We send out an emergency notification any time we think people on campus are in danger,” Posey said. “We try not to over-send because we don’t want people to become desensitized. We definitely will send them when we think there’s a threat.”

Posey said threats of immediate danger include an active shooter on campus, a bomb threat or any event that could harm the UT community.    

While UTPD offers students a choice to sign up for alert text messages and the Campus Watch daily summary, the department of Campus Safety and Security sends emails to all people on campus when an immediate threat occurs.

One such event was a bomb threat in fall 2012 that warranted an emergency alert to be sent to the entire campus. A full campus evacuation was ordered after the threat was received.

Neuroscience junior Rachel Concha said she had received the message that morning. Concha said it was the first emergency text she had received from the University, and she hears about emergencies in a timely manner.

“I think the University’s alert system is effective,” Concha said. “People are encouraged to sign up to receive emergency messages during their first moments at UT.”

Concha said, while she has never felt unsafe on campus, she thinks it would be good for students to be updated about events such as the assault that took place last month, but said she wouldn’t want to have too many notifications.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Update (2:19 p.m.): In response to a man’s death by suicide Sunday night in front of Littlefield Fountain, the Counseling and Mental Health Center is making active attempts to spread word of suicide prevention resources through social media, according to CMHC Associate Director Jane Bost.

“That’s how we’re responding this morning — just making sure that word is out there, that we’re available if there’s a need for anyone enrolled as a student here to know about our services,” Bost said.

Bost said the center has reached out to Texas Parents and other groups since the incident occurred.

“We’re just acknowledging that this has happened and making sure that people are aware of the services at CMHC at this time,” Bost said.

A crowd of roughly 100 people gathered around the fountain after midnight Monday morning as rumors spread about the incident.

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said a campus police officer was present when the victim shot himself.

“We had gotten word that he was coming to campus because he put a post on Facebook,” Posey said. “An officer was walking up when it happened.”

Posey said the man was only determined to be a threat to himself and not the campus as a whole, which is why the University only tweeted about the incident and did not send a University-wide email or text message.

“We tweeted because other people were tweeting and wondering what was going on,” Posey said. “We try not to abuse the system, because we want people to always take our emails seriously when there is a serious threat. We try not to send out too many so that people become desensitized — so we only do that when we know it’s a threat.”

— Julia Brouillette

Original story: A man died by suicide Sunday night in front of Littlefield Fountain, according to UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey. The man, who was not a UT student, faculty member or staff member, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after being taken to Brackenridge Hospital, Posey said.

According to Posey, UTPD officers were notified about the incident at 11:51 p.m. when someone saw a concerning post the victim wrote on social media. The man was transported to the hospital at 11:57 p.m. and pronounced dead at 12:13 a.m.

"Our thoughts go out to the family and friends of the victim," Posey said. 

If you or anyone you know is considering self-harm, here are University and community resources:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

UT Counseling and Mental Health Center Crisis Line: 512-471-2255

Behavior Concerns Advice Line: 512-232-5050.

For more resources, click here.

Correction: This article has been corrected since its original posting. Though a UTPD officer arrived at the scene during the incident, the man died at Brackenridge Hospital.

Tony Smith’s 1965 sculpture “Amaryllis” stands covered in a tarp after being vandalized by pro Texas A&M graffiti Sunday night. 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Six on-campus locations were tagged with pro-Texas A&M graffiti over the weekend — the latest in a string of Aggie-related graffiti incidents dating back to 2011, according to police officials. 

University Operations spokeswoman Rhonda Weldon said a UT staff member reported the graffiti to UTPD around 4:45 a.m. Sunday. The graffiti included various promotional A&M phrases and slogans, such as “Gig em’ Aggies” and “Saw ‘Em Off.” Officers checked the campus for suspects and other signs of criminal activity, but did not find anything. Facilities Services crews began to remove the graffiti the following morning.

According to a list provided by UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey, the east and north walls of the Performing Arts Center, west side of the LBJ Library, east side of the Thompson Conference Center and west side of the E. William Doty Fine Arts Building were vandalized. Tony Smith’s 1965 sculpture “Amaryllis” — situated outside the fine arts building — was also tagged. 

Weldon said the Texas Memorial Museum statue and a public art installation on loan from The Metropolitan Museum of Art were also damaged.

Despite the fact that Texas A&M left the Big 12 football conference in 2011, and no longer plays UT in an annual game, incidents of Aggie-related graffiti have persisted every October for the last two years.

On Oct. 23, 2011, unknown perpetrators tagged the north-side wall of the Weaver Power Plant Annex and the bridge connecting the Winship Drama Building to San Jacinto Boulevard. In addition, crosshairs were sprayed on an east-side wall of the drama building, and a phallic depiction was painted next to Donald Lipski’s East Mall monument “The West.” 

Prominent UT landmarks were also defaced in October 2012. They included the wall perimeter of the UT Tower, the windows of the Flawn Academic Center and the statues of Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson in front of the Tower. Lipski’s sculpture was tagged for the second time.

UTPD Capt. Julie Gillespie said A&M graffiti is nothing new, especially around football season. Although the rivalry is over, Gillespie said UTPD will treat these incidents as a trend moving forward and will continue to work closely with A&M’s police department to catch the vandals.

“We work very closely with the Texas A&M police department,” Gillespie said. “We’ll send all of our reports to A&M, and hopefully they can yield a result over there.”

Gillespie said tagging buildings or monuments with graffiti is a state jail felony. According to the police report, the damage estimate for Sunday’s vandalism is roughly $525.

Gillespie said prior to every A&M-UT football game in years past, UTPD would initiate an “Aggie Watch” to monitor for football-fueled pranks.

The department has only issued one citation for criminal mischief related to A&M graffiti since 2011, Gillespie said. A Texas A&M student was cited on April 14 for scrawling A&M-related graffiti around the campus in chalk. According to a police report from the incident, the student allegedly committed the vandalism as part of a scavenger hunt organized by the Texas A&M chapter of the Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity.