UTPD

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

Violent crimes on UT’s campus more than doubled last year, according to newly released FBI data.

FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting shows a total of 13 violent crimes occurred on campus in 2016 in comparison to just six in 2015. These 13 violent crimes consist of one count of homicide, five counts of rape, three counts of robbery and four counts of aggravated assault.

Nonviolent crimes decreased 15 percent from 2015, with 337 counts of property crimes — ten counts of burglary, 325 counts of larceny theft, two motor vehicle thefts and one count of arson. Burglary occurs when a structure is unlawfully entered with the intent to commit a crime, whereas larceny theft is the unauthorized possession of another’s belongings.

UT Police Department Chief David Carter said the increase is not dramatically higher than previous years in terms of overall crime trends, but said he hopes UT’s violent crime rates will become even lower if possible.

“I think it’s important for police chiefs to never be satisfied when there is even one victim of violent crime,” Carter said. “Our eyes are always looking at the path moving forward using the best practices and an active community engagement as well as a solid policing foundation.”

Carter said although there are issues within the greater Austin area, UT remains a relatively safe community.

“This is a university that has grown in complexity and infrastructure,” Carter said. “We had the addition of a medical school and more sophisticated buildings. The police have to catch up to that and that takes time.”

Petroleum engineering sophomore Mitchel Broten said additions to the UT landscape have provided him with more safe spaces.

“Places like the new engineering building definitely made me want to stay on campus more,” Broten said. “If there’s a nice and safe space to study at then I would definitely go more often.”

The majority of reported cases of violent crimes are interpersonal violence such as sexual assault and fights where people involved know each other, Carter said.

“Police presence makes a great difference to violence between people who don’t know each other,” Carter said. “But in cases of interpersonal violence, police presence is usually not as effective because they usually occur in confined spaces like a private dorm or apartment. These are more aligned with social awareness, which is a big part of crime fighting.”

Biology sophomore Sebastian Calderon said he thinks the UT community is not the source of violent crimes.

“Austin has a complex growing population that’s causing many changes in the area,” Calderon said. “It’s (population from) the remote areas surrounding UT that concerns student safety.”

Carter said UTPD will combat interpersonal violence by installing the District Liaison Officer Program, which subdivides the UT campus into eight districts, each of which will have a point of contact with a lead police officer.

“A safe community is where the community itself is engaged and has good connectivity with the police,” Carter said. “In my belief, a police force is a catalyst to a safe community as long as we’re visible and approachable. The students have to actively reach out to the police and vice versa.”

The UT Police Department made a Driving While Intoxicated arrest on Oct. 2 that led to the capture of suspected serial robber Sean O’Brien on Oct. 7.

O’Brien is currently in the Travis County Jail and is charged with four counts of aggravated robbery. During these robberies, a masked man holding an ignited roman candle and hammer demanded money from gas stations, according to KXAN.

The first robbery took place at a Shell Gas Station at 7510 N. Mopac Expressway on Sept. 27. The second incident occurred two days later at the 7-Eleven at 3848 Airport Blvd. On Oct. 1, two 7-Eleven stores were robbed, one at 9200 Burnet Road and the other at the 7-Eleven on 6100 block of Bee Caves Road, KXAN reported.

The Austin Police Department received an anonymous tip on Oct. 5 that named O’Brien as the robber. After looking up his name, APD found that O’Brien had been arrested by UTPD three days earlier for DWI. UTPD then provided video footage of the arrest that showed a mask and gloves in O’Brien’s car.

“There’s almost always information sharing when a case involves overlapping jurisdictions,” said Tara Long, APD’s public information specialist. “We, as law enforcement agencies, would need to maximize resources.”

Long said APD also worked with Lone Star Fugitive Task Force to locate O’Brien at Lockhart, where he was taken into custody by the Lockhart Police Department on Oct. 7.

“There were multiple forces involved in this case,” Long said. “When it’s appropriate, APD will ask UTPD for information that the latter might have. This is not uncommon, especially in West Campus.”

Finance sophomore Jennie Tai heard about the robberies on Twitter in September. She said she is surprised UTPD had played a role in the capture of the suspect.

“It’s cool to see leads that come from unexpected places,” Tai said. “It also shows that there’s so much to be accomplished when departments work with cooperation instead of competition.”

UTPD Lt. Greg Stephenson said although APD cannot directly access UTPD records and vice versa, information sharing can be as simple as a phone call or casual conversation.

“When police departments work together, there involves a document called memorandum of understanding,” Stephenson said. “It outlines the general acknowledgment that we will cooperate back and forth if we are crossing each other’s primary jurisdiction. I can’t even imagine when UTPD would ever refuse to give APD something they need.”

Both former police chief Robert Dahlstrom and current Police Chief David Carter served as chief of staff at APD before joining UTPD. Stephenson said their leadership roles have helped improve the relationship between APD and UTPD.

“We work really well with all the agencies around here, and APD is probably the most prominent,” Stephenson said. “We know the officers by name. The patrol units know each other on the street level. They trade cell phones and talk back and forth on a daily basis. That cooperation moves all the way through the department up to Chief Carter.”

Stephenson said the resolution of the O’Brien case is indicative of the cooperation between UTPD and surrounding agencies.

“It’s not a competitive thing,” Stephenson said. “It’s all about accomplishing the overall mission of getting everyone safe. Together we got a serial robber put away.”

Photo Credit: Chase Karacostas | Daily Texan Staff

UT System named UT Police Chief David Carter the 2017 Police Chief of the Year.

Director of Police Michael Heidingsfield annually picks Police Chief of the Year out of the 14 UT System police chiefs and said Carter is the consummate law enforcement leader.

“He is a thoughtful and dedicated police executive who embraces the community that the (UT Police Department) serves,” Heidingsfield said in an email. “He tirelessly works to make the campus community safer and mentors and coaches his (UTPD) team members. David’s pursuit of professionalism sets the standard for all of us.”

Carter entered the UT System four years ago, replacing Robert Dahlstrom as UTPD chief in July 2013. Carter began his career in law enforcement when he joined the Austin Police Department in 1985 as a patrol officer, later advancing to assistant chief and eventually chief of staff.

Over the years, Carter has won many awards such as the Distinguished Service Cross for Valor and the Distinguished Command Medal.

“I am humbled and honored to received the award of Chief of Police of the Year from UT System,” Carter said in an emailed statement. “UTPD will continue to work hard to achieve our mission of ‘Protecting those who will change the world.’”

Darrell Bazzell, UT senior vice president and CFO, released a statement yesterday about Carter being awarded.

“I’m so pleased that the UT System has honored Chief David Carter in this way,” Bazzell said in an emailed statement. “As is everyone in UTPD, the chief’s co-workers in Campus Safety and Security, and his peers and friends throughout the Financial and Administrative Services Portfolio.”

Bazzell said he is grateful for Chief Carter’s service to campus.

“The University is fortunate enough to have his caliber of law enforcement professional leading our police force,” Bazzell said in the email. “This prestigious recognition of Chief Carter is well deserved.”

Bob Harkins, associate vice president in campus safety and security, also extended his congratulations to Carter.

“All members of the University Safety and Security community are deeply proud of Chief Carter,” Harkins said. “Chief is a true leader. His impact on UTPD has been significant. We are honored to work with him.”

Photo Credit: Melanie Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

Bicyclists breaking transportation laws are too common on campus, said Le’Patrick Moore, UT Police Department Corporal.

Since transportation code treats bicycles as motor vehicles, bicyclists on campus need to follow all the same laws drivers do, said Moore, a member of the UTPD bike unit. These laws include stopping at stop signs and red lights, and using turn signals.

“Students do not have the right to blow through intersections like they own the road,” Moore said. “This only poses a danger to themselves and everyone around them.”

Additional laws bicyclists must follow include getting in a bike lane when available and determining how close to the right curb they can ride while maintaining their personal safety if there is none.

“I know it is hard on a bike to stop at every intersection because the constant stopping is bad for the knees,” Moore said. “As long as the cyclists clears the intersection and makes sure it is (his or her) turn to go, then I’m fine with bicyclists not coming to a full stop.”

Exercise science junior Sahil Gopal, who bikes around campus, said he knows bicyclists have to follow car traffic laws but thinks most students feel they do not need to.

“Students are overconfident in their skills, especially when it comes to biking,” Gopal said. “They think they have the ability to maneuver around people and cars with ease, but the fact is that no one is invincible.”

The most common rule cyclists break is not using turn signals, Moore said.

“Using your left arm, you are supposed to make a backwards ‘L’ or ‘U’ to signal a right turn and stick your arm straight out for left turns,” Moore said. “We really encourage people to use them to let drivers know what sort of movement cyclists are making at dangerous intersections.”

Moore said students should keep these laws in mind as they travel on and off campus.

“There is not a lot of vehicle traffic going through campus, but on busier intersections off-campus, cars can go up to 30 mph, which would injure a cyclist badly,” Moore said.

Electric engineering freshman Mrugank Parab said the main thing bicyclists should look out for is pedestrians, as they can be at greater risk for injury.

“I’ll be walking through some construction section marked off for pedestrians and bicyclists will fly through them without watching,” Parab said. “They don’t acknowledge that we’re there, and that’s a lot more dangerous for us than them.”

The UTPD bike unit, which consists of officers patrolling on bikes, aims to be proactive in their policing and make sure students know they exist. The bike unit prides itself on educating bicyclists first before handing out punishments, Moore said.

“When I was a kid, I rode my bike all the time, but I didn’t really know what laws I was supposed to be following,” Moore said. “Now, I like to educate students first, so at least they know how they’re supposed to behave on the road.”

UTPD: Student assaulted near campus

A University of Texas student was assaulted Tuesday evening close to campus. 

 
The assault occurred in West Campus around 6:10 p.m., according to an alert sent out to students from the University of Texas Police Department. 
 
A female student said another woman punched her in the face. The assaulter is said to have short black hair, wearing a yellow shirt and blue shorts while toting a black backpack and burnt orange rolling suitcase. 
 
The case is still under investigation, according to UTPD spokeswoman Rhonda Weldon. 
 
UTPD has asked anyone who sees a woman matching this description to call them or 911 with her whereabouts.
 
UTPD officer Jorge Cuellar patrols the 23rd Street Artists’ Market area as part of a new initiative to safen the streets for students. UTPD officers will more frequently patrol West Campus as part of this initiative.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Officers from both UTPD and the Austin Police Department started a more focused initiative to minimize crime homeless people commit on Guadalupe Street. 

APD officer Darrell Grayson said the main area of focus is a 10-block stretch from Martin Luther King Boulevard to 29th Street. 

Grayson said officers have seen a larger congregation of the community’s homeless population around the artists’ market on 23rd Street. Many of those individuals receive services from the surrounding churches, as well as food from some of the businesses, according to Grayson.

The two police forces are working to curb crimes near that area in West Campus.

“What prompted [the initiative] was the aggressive panhandling and the homeless population harassing the vendors there in the square,” Grayson said. 

Although the area along Guadalupe Street and further west of campus is in APD’s territory, UTPD Chief David Carter said all the officers are working together to use all the resources available.

“We want to support our community, and our community that we police and protect is not always strictly on campus, so that’s what we’re doing here,” Carter said. 

Journalism senior Carola Guerrero De Leon said a homeless man assaulted her last July while she was walking along the Drag. 

Guerrero said, besides that instance, she has had very positive experiences with other members of the community but she thinks this new initiative will be helpful to the area.

“These people need help — granted their residential status around the UT community is not what many consider conventional — but they are a big part of our community,” Guerrero said. “Working toward the implementation of a more inclusive system that puts a bigger focus on education rather than punishment is the way to go.”

Carter said officers who are part of the UTPD bike unit are working on becoming more visible to the students who live in West Campus, the businesses along the street and the homeless population to identify particular individuals who are aggressive toward businesses and students on the street.

“We’re getting to better understand the area and the issues surrounding that,” Carter said. 

Carter said both UTPD and APD are increasing their visibility and presence in the area. But the officers are mainly attempting to know students so they will feel comfortable approaching them if they have been having a reoccurring problem with an individual, even if it is not an emergency issue.

“If we get information that there’s somebody who’s being aggressive toward a student … we’re going to try to find out who that person is,” Carter said. “Whether we can actually arrest them or charge them with some kind of crime is obviously dependent, but we’re not simply going to wait around for crime.”

Government senior Bryan Davis speaks at a rally held in response to a hate crime in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue Wednesday afternoon. The rally was organized by the Black Student Alliance and held on the 50th anniversary of King’s “I have a dream” speech. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Another student has reported a West Campus balloon attack, according to a statement submitted to the Campus Climate Response Team.

The report was filed nearly two weeks after government senior Bryan Davis received national media attention after he said he was targeted by a “bleach bomb” balloon. Similar allegations were reported in the fall of 2012. Ryan Miller, an educational administration graduate student and associate director of Campus Diversity and Strategic Initiatives, said this most recent incident occurred Saturday night, but he was unable to provide information about the location, the name of the victim or contents of the balloon — whether water or bleach.

Miller said the investigation is ongoing.

“Each case is unique,” Miller said. “If there’s an incident that requires a criminal investigation, we work with UTPD and the Austin Police Department.”

Otherwise, Miller said, incidents violating institutional policy are taken up with the Dean of Students. 

Davis, the victim of the previous balloon attack on Aug. 22, wrote an op-ed for the Burnt Orange Report on Friday in which he claimed that University and police officials made quick and uninformed statements to “scoot the [race] issue under the rug.” Davis wrote the op-ed in response to a University statement that said the balloons used in his attack and the 2012 incidents were likely filled with water. 

“Unfortunately, both the report and the statement given by UT are a result of poor investigation and utter negligence in handling the details of my case,” Davis said in the op-ed. “From the very beginning, I have consistently stated in all three reports I have given to the UTPD and APD that the bleach balloon did not directly strike me but had landed approximately 4-5 feet away from me.” 

According to Davis, the only liquid that made contact with his body did so on his right leg and nowhere else. In the op-ed, Davis said UTPD’s sending his clothing to an independent forensic lab for further testing will not yield any new developments. 

“UTPD and APD are analyzing ‘evidence’ that tells no more about the assault that happened than does anything else from or on my body except the calf-area of my right leg,” Davis said in the op-ed. 

In their coverage of the balloon attack, Davis argues, several media organizations wrongly reported his story and printed inaccurate information. Specifically, Davis mentions a statement given to The Daily Texan by APD public information officer Cpl. David Boyd. Davis could not be reached for comment.

Boyd told the Texan an official APD investigation could not proceed without first receiving a sworn statement from Davis. In the op-ed, Davis said the investigation was held up because the detective assigned to his case was out of the office. Davis said the detective assigned to his case could not speak for Boyd’s statement about needing to hear an official report from Davis. 

“Ultimately, the blame must be shared between The Daily Texan, UT’s Dr. Greg Vincent [vice president of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement] and the APD for failing to be accurate in their interpretation of details and evidence from the case,” Davis said in the op-ed. “I would rather the case go cold from a dead end than public officials making quick and uninformed statements to hurriedly scoot the issue under the rug.”

Davis said whether or not the liquid used to fill the balloon was actually bleach is “irrelevant” to the larger issues that “encouraged” the attack. 

“The underlying issue is the cultural ignorance and insensitivity that encouraged these assaults in the first place,” Davis said. “When minorities in an area have historically been discriminated against and targeted because of the color of their skin then perpetrators of an attack had better consider how their prank or game might be perceived by the minority they intend on targeting.”

Although UT and Austin police are aware of partying during freshman orientation, authorities said there are no extraordinary safety measures planned for each event.

UT Police Department spokeswoman Cynthia Posey said the UT Police Department will instead focus on educating students during information sessions at all freshman orientations between June 5 to July 10 on ways to prevent crime on campus and use available safety resources. Austin Police Department officials said the Austin police will not take any additional measures to cover orientation.

Even though UTPD is treating orientation like any other UT event, UTPD officer Darrell Halstead said he is warning students to follow the law during orientation and their time at UT. The top crimes committed at orientation include theft, public intoxication, consumption by a minor, criminal mischief and driving while intoxicated, Halstead said.

“I’m not going to call their mama, I’m not going to call their dad,” Halstead said. “They’re going to go see a judge.”  

If a student commits a crime on campus, Halstead said it could increase a student’s chances of being dismissed and UT would follow-up with the student.

According to UTPD, a UTPD officer caught three orientation participants with fake licenses on Guadalupe Street on Friday morning.

The officer observed one student throwing up and issued the student a citation for consumption of alcohol by a minor. The students claimed they were on their way back from Sixth Street and admitted to having fake licenses. The UTPD officer gave the students verbal warnings for having fake licenses, the report said.

Safety resources for students include the Campus Watch newsletter, SURE Walk and the Rape Aggression Defense classes offered by UTPD, Halstead said. Halstead gave a presentation to new students on these programs Wednesday.

SURE Walk is a campus-wide program operated by UT Student Government. In the program, student volunteers accompany students, faculty and staff who are on campus late to their dorms or cars. The Rape Aggression Defense class is a free self-defense class.

For any students thinking about sneaking off during orientation, Halstead had one thing to say:

“It’s going to be embarrassing to start their first day of college with a request to see the Dean of Students,” Halstead said.

Additional reporting by News Editor Jody Serrano. 

Follow Alberto Long on Twitter @albertolong.

Photo Credit: Holly Hansel | Daily Texan Staff

With the frenzy of Black Friday deals and Cyber Monday zeal, it can be difficult to divert our attention to more charitable endeavors during the early parts of the holiday season. The UT Police Department is offering an opportunity with its annual toy collection program, Orange Santa, to help facilitate donations small and large for families in need.

Using collection bins placed across campus, UTPD aims to gather hundreds of toys that are unopened and unwrapped. Contributions made to all 30 collection stations, including parking garages, guard stations, Perry-Castañeda Library and the main building, will be distributed to the children of students and faculty who are eligible.

Gifted items are recommended for all ages under 17. Small electronics, jewelry, sports equipment, instruments and board games are among the many suggested contributions. Monetary donations may also be made through Orange Santa’s website or a check made out to the University of Texas.

Throughout the years, the Orange Santa program has garnered a large number of benefactors around UT’s campus and Austin alike. From the University Co-op to the Walmart Foundation, 18 different charitable organizations are chipping in by providing financial assistance to the event. Working alongside the Hispanic Faculty and Staff Association, UTPD is able to provide a full-course meal to families in need, Darrell Halstead, an officer at UTPD who has participated in the program for several years now, said.

“The best part of the whole thing is the look that the kids get in their eyes when we roll a brand new bike over to them,” Halstead said. “It’s fun to watch them become giddy and run around because they know they’re getting early Christmas presents.”

Cash donations, toys and food will be made available to families in need at the Holiday Store, which will be set up in Bellmont Hall between Dec. 8 and 10. Although the deadline to apply for participation in the Orange Santa program has passed, volunteers are still wanted at the Holiday Store between Dec. 6 and Dec. 10 to help assist shoppers and wrap gifts. Students interested in getting involved may contact Kathy Fries, the volunteer organizer behind this concerted effort.

“[Orange Santa] is one of the many things we do here to try and give back to the community a little bit. It gives people a chance to see the police department in a different light and personally, being able to give back is why I love my job,” Halstead said. 

This upcoming Saturday will be the last opportunity for fans to gain free access to a UT sporting event by donating a gift to the Orange Santa toy drive. The UT men’s basketball team will take on UT Arlington in the Frank Erwin Center, although the time of the game has yet to be announced. General donations for the toy drive will conclude Dec. 7.

Printed on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012 as:UTPD's 'Orange Santa' collects toys

After releasing information about the suspect involved in the false alarms that evacuated 8 campus buildings on Monday, UTPD has posted pictures of the suspect on Facebook in an effort to bring the suspect into custody (Photo courtesy of UT Police Department).

The UT Police Department is still looking for the man who disrupted campus by pulling fire alarms in eight campus buildings Monday.

UT spokesperson Cindy Posey said the false alarms resulted in evacuations on the north and south sides of campus for about two hours. UTPD posted pictures of a suspect on Facebook Tuesday afternoon. On Monday, Posey released information about the suspect: a 5-feet-5-inches tall man, 180 pounds with short black hair.

Chemistry lecturer Sara Sutcliffe said the alarm did not impact her much because she had 10 minutes of office hours left in Welch Hall when the fire alarm was activated.

“It just irritates me that somebody is going to use something which is meant for a serious purpose in a flippant way like this,” Sutcliffe said.

Sutcliffe, who also is a volunteer firefighter, also said because lab experiments occasionally set off alarms, the evacuation of her building proceeded fairly smoothly. She said she took it seriously because Welch Hall has almost burned down before. In October 1996, a postdoctoral research project resulted in a fire on the fifth floor of the building, according to an article in the Victoria Advocate.

Devon Rooks, a psychology and sociology freshman, said he evacuated from the Texas Union as a result of the alarm-pulling spree. Rooks, who was getting lunch, said at first he did not take the alarm seriously.

“But then a message came on and [it] was like ‘No, something is going on. You need to get out,’” Rooks said.

Rooks said he made it out with his lunch and backpack, but there were people behind him who had to evacuate before they could get their food. Overall, Rooks said he was satisfied with UTPD and Austin Fire Department’s response.

“By the time that I got out of my class, people were already back at the Union,” he said. “And by the time I checked my email after class, the UT police were like ‘Hey, this is what happened.’”

UT police sent out a description of the suspect Monday at 4:51 p.m. Undeclared freshman Shanzeh Mohammed also said she was satisfied with UTPD’s response, and her calculus class was allowed back into Calhoun Hall about eight minutes after the fire alarm was pulled at approximately 2:20 p.m.

Mohammed said she has one question for the uncaught prankster: “Why?” As of press time, UTPD said they still had made no arrests and need witnesses to step forward. They may be contacted at 512-471-4441.