Crime Prevention is a job that requires vigilance, patience and a dry sense of humor. For Darrell Halstead, the primary writer of Campus Watch, abating the threat of public intoxication, traffic cone theft and West Campus groping comes one sarcastic blurb at a time. Officer Halstead talks to The Daily Texan about his Campus Watch reports.
The Daily Texan: Is the snark something that was present in the original logs, or did it develop over time?
Officer Darrell Halstead: No, no. We started the Campus Watch off in 1999. The sergeant that I had in this office with me was all about the facts. Just the facts. The Campus Watch was very dull, very dry. Then he retired, and I started interjecting some of that sarcasm, some of that snark, and poking fun at people, but not poking fun at them as an individual. There were a few sergeants that said, “Oh no, we can’t do that.” But the chief said, “Let’s give this a try.” And it just kind of evolved into what it is today, where it’s chock-full of a lot of crime prevention information, but at the same time it’s written in a humorous way to keep you coming back.
DT: What was the motivation to start writing the Campus Watch?
Halstead: After the Clery Act was passed in 1991, all campuses have been required to disclose their crime statistics on a yearly basis. On October 1, we released last year’s crime statistics. We then have to wait until October [of next year] to release the new crime stats. It doesn’t do any good, to be honest, to wait that long. Even though the Campus Watch is not a supplement to the Clery Act, the folks that enforce the Clery Act have looked at this as a way of disseminating day-to-day business and have recommended it to other universities as well.
DT: How does your job in Crime Prevention correlate to the Campus Watch?
Halstead: Basically, we’re taking everything that we’ve learned about: locks, windows, doors, lighting, landscaping, denying opportunity, reducing risk, delaying the thief, deterring the thief. We’re incorporating all of that into the Campus Watch whenever we get a chance to put in a crime prevention piece. And we do. We’re not kidding when there are very simple things you can do to reduce threats.
DT: What is the most common crime on campus?
Halstead: Theft. It’s the most common crime here. With 52,000 students, there are 52,000 opportunities for someone to commit a crime. But if you look at UT compared to the entire city of Austin, we don’t have nearly the same number of problems that surround us. We do a good job.
DT: Is theft preventable?
Halstead: It takes three things for a criminal to be successful: desire, ability and opportunity. We can’t do anything about their desire or ability. That’s all personal. But we can eliminate the opportunity. By leaving anything unlocked, you’re creating an opportunity.
DT: What’s one of the most problematic areas on campus?
Halstead: Gregory Gym. We’ve gone in there, replaced the lockers and locked their stuff up. We’ve worked hand-in-hand with the staff putting up signage, but still Gregory Gym remains in the top five. It’s a revolving door.
DT: How many volts are in a tazer?
Halstead: I think somewhere around 250,000 volts. I’ve done it three times. Do you want to be tazed?
DT: Let’s stay on topic. What is your favorite part of the job?
Halstead: I’ve been working here for 25 years. I still enjoy putting bad guys in jail, and I still get a kick out of chasing someone down. But I get a bigger kick out of meeting a freshman, and then five years down the road having them come back and say, “Hey Officer Halstead, none of my stuff got stolen, had a great time here, learned a lot from the Campus Watch.”
DT: What does the future look like for Campus Watch?
Halstead: It’s always evolving and changing. The stories pretty much write themselves. But sometimes it’s better to create a good description of something rather than saying, “someone’s peeing” or “someone’s puking.” Create a little visual for that, and leave it to the reader’s imagination. But we’ve got eight or nine programs in Crime Prevention that we do now, all of which promote the Campus Watch, expanding the number of readers as best as we can.
DT: What do you do when off duty?
Halstead: I definitely like to go out to the lakes and go fishing. When it’s dove season, [I] go out and do some bird-hunting.
DT: Are police officers ever off duty?
Printed on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 as: Officer provides insight with side of sarcasm