Both West Campus and North Campus are neighborhoods that possess a spirited and united vibe. They are home to thousands of college-aged students who feel confident enough to wander around at night in vulnerable situations, such as being alone or inebriated, without using better judgment concerning their surroundings and the defenseless position they are putting themselves in.
The chaotic atmosphere of these neighborhoods, where peculiar situations and loud hollering spark little concern, provides excellent opportunities for crime to occur unnoticed. In an article in The Daily Texan following the November assault in West Campus, a UT junior commented on the reason criminal activity may be mistaken for typical ridiculous behavior in the area: “Most of the time it’s a bunch of drunk people at night, so if you saw that, at first glance you might assume that’s what was going on.”
However, the solution is not to live in a state of perpetual paranoia or fear of leaving one’s residence. Concern for one’s safety should never be an inconvenience but rather a natural precaution that is taken. Informing students repeatedly with phrases that police departments and other groups use, such as “maintain good judgment,” “avoid walking alone” and “stay in lighted areas,” makes being the victim of a crime seem like a distant possibility. The thought process that typically passes through my own mind when informed of a crime through Campus Watch is brief panic, reassurance that nothing of the sort has ever happened to me and an assumption that it will not happen to me in the future.
This psychological reaction to crime seems deep-rooted and unavoidable, so a non-psychological solution must be presented. For example, James Shaw, the founder of Resist Attack, a local company that sells personal and home security products, proposed the ambitious goal of providing every woman in America with a free can of pepper spray.
The family-owned Austin company is beginning its mission right here at the University, as Shaw believes the females most susceptible to danger, including students, should receive cans of the spray first. Shaw will speak at a self-defense program and distribute pepper spray cans Thursday at Kinsolving Dormitory.
Carrying pepper spray and learning to use it effectively are minor lifestyle changes that could potentially hold invaluable benefits, as it provides a reliable escape route for victims. Even those who remain aware of their surroundings can be the victims of crime.
Manescu is a journalism and international relations freshman.