Terry McMahan

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

On freezing cold days, University officials deal with slick roads, campus closures and delays, but, on freezing cold nights, it isn’t the students whom officials are concerned about.

Instead, UTPD officers get calls of homeless individuals entering campus buildings in search of warmth.

Friday night, a non-UT man was arrested after a custodian found him sleeping in the Engineering-Science Building. According to the UTPD crime log, this was the man’s ninth arrest for criminal trespassing. UTPD Lt. Gonzalo Gonzalez said the man was looking for a warm place to sleep. Since then, UTPD has reported five additional criminal trespass incidents, four of which involved individuals sleeping in campus buildings. 

Terry McMahan, assistant chief of police, said UTPD officers issue criminal trespass warnings — and occasionally arrest — individuals who are not authorized to be on the campus. McMahan said this policy follows the UT System Board of Regents Rules and Regulations.

“If they have no business here, we’re going to ask them to leave,” McMahan said. “If they‘re a student, faculty or staff, then it’s OK and we move on to something else.”

McMahan said people seeking shelter from the freezing temperatures could turn to local resource centers, such as the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. Center spokeswoman Kay Klotz said the center is always open for transient individuals.

“Everybody is able to sleep in a warm place at night if they come here, but they have to come here,” Klotz said.

According to Klotz, the Austin area has had more than 30 freezing nights so far this year. 

Once at the shelter, people are provided a place to sleep for as long as necessary, according to Klotz.

“Our goal is to get everyone into safe and stable housing, that’s what our case managers do all the time,” Klotz said. “But, until that happens, they can stay here.”

McMahan said UTPD officers do not escort people to shelters.

“We have an obligation to patrol the University of Texas campus, we don’t have an obligation to take people to the [center],” McMahan said. “We don’t have the resources to taxicab people all over the city, especially when we’ve got buses and everything else.”

While the public views the University as a public space, the regent’s rules do not allow unauthorized use of campus facilities, McMahan said.

“The University of Texas is really not public property, but we kind of treat it that way,” McMahan said. “Once somebody comes on to the campus, and they violate a regent’s rule, then that is what evokes their right to be here.”

Linguistics senior Hadley Main said the University should be more lenient when dealing with homeless people.

“For a public research institution, it is sad to me they would arrest [someone],” Main said. “We are welcoming in so many different areas.”

McMahan said UTPD officers do not tailor their response to trespassing based on whether a person is homeless and make decisions solely on individuals’ accordance with the rules and regulations of the UT System.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with whether they’re homeless or not, it has to do with whether they’re an authorized user of the facilities,” McMahan said. “The University of Texas is a very welcoming campus; we want people to come see what we’re about. But, if you’re here for foul play, we don’t want you here anymore.”

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

A recent report found that the homeless population in Texas, including in the Austin area, has declined in recent years. Although these general populations have been decreasing, the University does not specifically monitor the transient population that resides near campus.

According to a report by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, the number of transients has decreased by 15 percent since 2010, but Texas transients still account for 5 percent of the population of U.S. transients.

UTPD Assistant Chief Terry McMahan said UT outlines no specific policy concerning transients. He said it is common for UTPD to make arrests for criminal trespassing, but the department is usually called if someone is making a disturbance, breaking a rule or if they seem to be hurt.

“We don’t deal with people on the basis of who they are,” McMahan said. “We go in with the mind-set that everyone is welcome to UT until they violate the law.”

Biology senior Lauren Gandy is co-chair of Hunger and Homelessness Outreach, a student organization that works directly with Austin transients. Gandy said since she joined the organization almost three years ago, she has noticed a decline in the transient population.

“On the Drag is where I can see some differences,” Gandy said. “I have seen fewer people in that area.”

Transient David Houston and his pregnant wife, Elizabeth Toner, live on Guadalupe Street. Houston said he agrees with data that suggests the number of homeless people have declined in Texas in recent years, but it is not because there are more resources for the homeless population. Houston said more people are dying from the adverse weather conditions.

Houston said he has lived in the area for more than eight years, but he has not had any contact with student organizations.

“We haven’t seen any of [the student organizations] come down here and try to help us,” Houston said.

Houston said it is difficult to find a bathroom for him or his wife to use. Houston said he has tried to use campus restrooms twice, including at the Union, but was forcibly removed from the building.

“The security guard in the UT building said, ‘Sir, you’re not allowed to be in here; you’re not allowed to use the restroom,’” Houston said. “They threw me out on my rear because I would not leave until I had used the restroom.”

Toner said she tried to use the restroom in Dobie Mall, but a security guard followed her, stopped her and said she needed to leave. Toner said the security guard threatened Houston.

Transients are free to use the bathrooms on campus if buildings are open, McMahan said. 

“The colder weather does induce people to come into warmer areas,” McMahan said. 

McMahan said the department has a limited number of resources, so they look for things that are out of place. He said although the public is allowed on campus, if someone does not “have a purpose” for being on campus and is causing a disruption, UTPD may ask the person to leave. When asked, McMahan said the appropriate UTPD reponse is determined on a case-by-case basis.

“Sometimes we’ll catch people sleeping in buildings,” McMahan said. “The business of the public is not to sleep on campus.”

UTPD is stepping it up with the addition of new SUV’s.  With nearly $15,000 of police equipment per vehicle, new Ford Explorers will endure wear and tear while ensuring an optimum environment for officers to work on the go.

Photo Credit: Jarrid Denman | Daily Texan Staff

UTPD’s newest form of transportation — a fleet of brand-new, police-ready Ford Explorers — cost UTPD roughly $50,000 per vehicle. Campus security administrators had to fight to enable these and other enhancements in the face of wide-reaching budget cuts.

Bob Harkins, vice president for Campus Safety and Security, said departments at all levels of the University were faced with budget deficits, but in the end, interest in campus safety was enough to avert any reduction in UTPD’s funds, which stands at almost $9 million for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

“We protected the people in UTPD,” Harkins said. “We protected their training and their equipment.”

Assistant chief of police Terry McMahan said UTPD’s vehicles undergo a significant amount of wear and tear — more so than the average car — and the department needs continued funding to replace vehicles every year.

“Officers get in and out of their vehicles 24-seven,” McMahan said. “Cars take a beating in this business.”

Harkins said $50,000 sounds like a significant amount of money to spend on a car, but roughly $15,000 of the cost comes from policing equipment installed in each vehicle.

Before purchasing vehicles from the state, the department takes gas efficiency, quality and interior spaciousness into consideration.

“We want our officers to be comfortable,” McMahan said. “Some professionals have offices — University police officers have patrol cars. The car is the office.”

McMahan said vehicles are replaced after they accumulate high mileage or become too expensive to maintain. Once a car is decommissioned, it is stripped down and auctioned off by the University.

“[Our vehicles] don’t accumulate mileage on highways like most cars do — it’s city mileage and that’s tough on an engine,” McMahan said.

Once a proposal for a new fleet is drawn up by the department, it is up to Patricia Clubb, vice president of University Operations, to decide whether to approve the department’s requests. Clubb said she is sympathetic to police officers’ need for a working vehicle and strives to get as much funding for the department as she can.

“There’s a lot of starting and stopping, which causes a whole lot of wear and tear on those vehicles,” Clubb said. “The officers are really dependent on their cars and that’s a big part of what they do … We run these cars into the ground. When they’re ready to be replaced, we step up and fund those new vehicles.”

Although administration shielded the department from significant cuts, Clubb said the department’s cost-efficiency also makes equipment enhancements possible. She said improvements in police technology such as the installation of laptop computers in police cruisers have streamlined UTPD’s record-keeping process, saving the department time and money.

“We can spend more time on policing and less time on the paperwork,” Clubb said.

Currently, UTPD has 18 commissioned vehicles — 10 patrol cars, four supervisor vehicles and four canine transfer units.

McMahan said he expects new vehicles to last three to five years before they are rotated out of commission. 

Clubb said she will continue to stand up for the department and push to get them the resources they need.

“The campus depends on the police department for its safety,” Clubb said. “I think there’s a feeling of well-being throughout campus because of having a good police department. Safety is what they’re all about, and I think they’ve done a great job.”

UTPD’s assistant chief of police Terry McMahan has been working for the UT System for 30 years.

Photo Credit: Louis San Miguel | Daily Texan Staff

UTPD’s assistant chief of police Terry McMahan’s extensive role appears simple on paper – assist the chief, keep the budgets balanced and coordinate – a role he has filled for 13 of his 30 years in UT System’s police force.  But McMahan said his job is constantly evolving, and with a new chief of police coming in, things look like they will continue to shift. Somethings, however, will always remain the same. 

“I think there’s been a lot of change in my career,” McMahan said. “But I think everything we need to know about staying safe we learned in kindergarten.”

McMahan said he remembers when police work was done with a pen and pencil, and when coordination between state, federal and local law enforcement agencies – a common practice in post 9/11 America –  was a rare occurrence.   

“9/11 changed law enforcement so that we communicate better with each other,” McMahan said. “Back in the old days, each law enforcement worked their own cases, and we really didn’t talk about our cases with other police entities. Nowadays, if we got something happening on the campus, it may likely be happening in the city. If we communicate better with one another, we’re able to solve crime easier.”

Similarly, changes in technology have left a lasting impact on policing, and McMahan said things like social media have boosted the need for transparency and student outreach.  

“Technology has really sky-rocketed, like in everything else,” McMahan said. “When I was on the streets, we really didn’t have in-car cameras. We didn’t have Facebook or Twitter back then either. We try really hard to put ourselves out there through that medium as well.” 

McMahan said one of UTPD’s highest priorities is student concern around campus, and said the department has taken steps to ensure their ears and doors remain open to students. 

“We’re always interested in student voices” McMahan said. “For instance, we meet with student government and try to provide them with the best information we can to help them make their decisions, and our crime prevention unit meets with a lot organizations.”

McMahan said he is confident David Carter, UTPD’s new chief of police, will continue to uphold the standards of transparency and outreach laid out by his predecessor, Robert Dahlstrom. 

“It’s always good to have your ears open to what students are saying, Chief Dahlstrom did an excellent job of that,” McMahan said. “I think chief Carter will continue that. He’s a solid individual with a great reputation.”

Members of student government said UTPD shows a strong presence at their assemblies, noting that high ranking officers including McMahan and Dahlstrom are often in attendance.

“We had a representative that wanted to take on the police’s stance on marijuana,” said Taylor Ragsdale, a recent graduate who majored in finance and economics. “They wanted to lower marijuana on the priority list. While that resolution was not well-received by the rest of the assembly, UTPD did have a presence at the hearing and Chief Dahlstrom gave his own opinions on the matter.” 

Other representatives say UTPD’s efforts to boost outreach and education are still an issue. 

“I think [student outreach] needs to be addressed in the upcoming years, particularly making sure that students who live off campus, especially freshman, know how to keep themselves and their property safe,” said Andrew Houston, a resident assistant and student representative for the School of Architecture. “Organizations need to ensure their members are safe and understand all the resources that are available to them. The bridge needs to be built from both sides.”

McMahan majored in math and chemistry at UT Permean Basin, and admitted he did not know what he wanted to do while in college. 

“Some people know what they want to do with their lives from the get go. I’m wasn’t one of those people,” McMahan said. “I’m not a traditional student. I was out of high school for ten years working the oil fields before I went to college.”

McMahan began his policing career as a part-time dispatcher for the UT Permean Basin police department, eventually becoming chief of police for the department, a position he held for 10 years before transferring to UTPD. McMahan said the experience he gained heading a small police department has been invaluable to the work he does within UTPD. 

“I had a chance to come to the UT system police academy,” McMahan said. “I did that thinking it would be a few extra bucks a month while I earned my degree. Eventually, I became chief of police there. The job was really challenging.” 

Dahlstrom said McMahan’s knowledge of chemistry often helped the department respond to chemically related incidents around campus. 

“I cannot count how many times we had an incident at one of the labs that Terry was able to say ‘that is really bad stuff,’ or that [it didn’t pose much of a threat],” Dahlstrom said.“Terry always came through whenever something was needed. He knows how to balance the needs of the University with the needs of the employees. His goal is to help people.”

McMahan said his time away from department centers around his sons, one of whom will be a freshman in the fall. He enjoys sports like golfing, fishing and hunting. Typically, he roots for Texas teams, though he is partial to the San Antonio Spurs and University athletics.

Follow Alberto Long on Twitter @albertolong.

Update at 12:30 p.m. - UT spokeswoman Cynthia Posey released a statement saying the suspect in Sunday morning's attempted sexual assault, Ji Hun Choi,  was arrested Monday at the UTPD station. Choi, born in 1991, was charged with assault causing bodily injury, a Class A misdemeanor and improper photography, a state jail felony.

 

With the help of social media, a suspect in Sunday morning’s attempted sexual assault has been identified and charges are pending, UTPD Assistant Chief Terry McMahan said.

McMahan said UTPD believed the suspect was a student and that he may be involved in other similar cases.

“We put the pictures out on social media, and through that avenue we developed some leads which led to us identifying this person,” McMahan said. “We also have possible other cases referring to the same suspect. We will be investigating those as well.”

UTPD posted pictures captured by security cameras on Facebook Sunday afternoon of the suspect. According to Monday’s Campus Watch report, the suspect followed a female student into Roberts Dormitory early Sunday morning and then grabbed her from behind and attempted to assault her. The student reported she elbowed the suspect and kicked him off, which caused him to leave the area quickly.

McMahan said an arrest has not been made, but charges were pending.

Two UTPD officers ascend a staircase in Wooldridge Hall Monday afternoon, attempting to find and secure a mock shooter. Local law enforcement agencies often use buildings scheduled for demolition to train police officers in active shooter response scenarios.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

First Responders-in-training pelted each other and the lead-based paint walls at Wooldridge Hall with colored simulation bullets during a UT Police Department training session that began Monday.

Assistant Chief of Police Terry McMahan said the trainees will go through active-shooter training, the kind employed when a UT student fired an assault rifle on campus before taking his own life on Sept. 28, 2010.

“It’s a multi-agency training, so Travis County [Sheriffs], DPS [Department of Public Safety], APD [Austin Police Department] and UTPD are all taking part in this,” McMahan said. “If we had an active shooter, we’d have multiple teams to respond seamlessly like they did on the 9/28 incident.”

Once the center for study abroad and international student’s offices, Wooldridge Hall will be demolished later in the year.

UTPD holds this sort of “force-on-force training” whenever a University building becomes obsolete, McMahan said.

“We did this in the ROTC building before it got torn down,” he said. “It gives you a realistic way to learn how to do these things in an actual University building.”

Rhonda Weldon, director of University Operations-Communications, said UT routinely holds this kind of training to better prepare for emergency situations.

UTPD posted a warning last Thursday on their Facebook page to “expect lots of commotion” near Wooldridge Hall this week as the First Responders train.

The department will hold training from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. until Wednesday, in the hall located on 24th Street between Nueces and Seton streets in West Campus.

Don Verett, captain of UTPD, said participants will endure a variety of training situations.

Verett warned the almost 200 trainees about the tunnel vision and auditory exclusion they can expect from adrenaline rushes during the tests. The trainees use a modified gun that shoots soap bullets combined with dye to provide negative reinforcement when hit, he said.

“Some of these scenarios require the rescuing of a hostage, some just need a bad guy neutralized,” Verett said. “Basically, a team of good guys goes in and fights a team of bad guys.”

Texans could have to watch out for 116 new criminal offenses, depending on the success of bills in the Texas State House of Representatives.

Each session, lawmakers propose dozens of pieces of legislation aimed at criminalizing new offenses in the state, as well as legislation that adjusts the punishments for existing crimes.

“Some new laws are always necessary to keep up with changes in technology, drug formulas, public opinion and many other variables,” said criminology professor Mark Warr.

The proposed legislation may create multiple new felonies and misdemeanors. There are currently 2,383 felonies on the books, and 59 of those passed in 2009.

“Criminalizing too many forms of behavior inhibits effective law enforcement, and unenforced laws can create disrespect for the law and law enforcement,” Warr said.

When the Legislature passes law, UT Police Department is subject to uphold those laws, said Assistant Chief of Police Terry McMahan. After UTPD makes an arrest, that person goes through the court system, which decides the type of punishment, McMahan said.

Some of the proposed laws this session include criminalizing the formerly caffeinated malt beverage Four Loko, harshening the punishment for graffiti offenders, repealing the law stating that homosexuality is an offense and creating strict punishments for pet thefts.

HB 882 — Criminalizing Four Lokos
Four Loko fans will need to invest in an alternative if a law passes deeming the controversial beverages illegal this session.

Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, proposed the bill.

A person may not manufacture, import, sell or possess for the purpose of sale a malt beverage that contains caffeine, according to the bill. The bill did not specify what charges a person could
incur.

McMahan said UTPD would deal with the criminalization of Four Loko much the same way as they deal with alcohol
on campus.

“I’m sure if they were to pass a law that criminalized them, then I’m guessing those companies would be shut down because it would be hard to produce them and sell them,” McMahan said.

The passage of the bill will result in an official ban of caffeinated alcoholic drinks in this state, as well as the potential to face criminal charges. The beverage as sold currently contains no caffeine.

HB 38 — Graffiti
Graffiti artists on campus could face felony charges or have their driver’s license suspended if they continue to decorate the campus with their artwork.

The bill proposed by Rep. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, could make the act a felony if a person marks a school, an institution of higher education, a place of worship or human burial, a public monument, a government building or a community center that provides medical, social or educational programs, according to the bill.

“Our constituents are sick and tired of having graffiti,” Menendez said. “We’ve tried to attack this issue from every single angle, and we think that we may have one approach that will possibly impact those young people where it hurts them the most — the driver’s license.”

If the legislation passes, individuals who are caught doing graffiti could have their license suspended for up to two years.

At UT, graffiti is a near daily occurrence. There were about eight incidences within the past seven days, according to Campus Watch, a report compiled by University police.

HB 604 — Homosexuality Repeal
A state representative is asking other lawmakers to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that criminal penalties under state sodomy laws are unconstitutional.

The bill proposed by Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, could also revise statewide sex education curriculum to remove mandatory references to gay and lesbian relationships as “not an acceptable lifestyle.”

Almost a decade ago, the Supreme Court in the case Lawrence v. Texas declared it was unconstitutional for homosexuality to be subject to criminal charges. Texas has yet to update its laws to reflect the decision, and “homosexual conduct” is still considered a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.

“Whether one agrees or disagrees with the substance of Justice [Anthony] Kennedy’s opinion, it diminishes the sanctity of Texas laws when legislators fail to clean up our statutes to reflect the court’s rulings on the U.S. Constitution,” according to a statement released by Farrar in January.

HB 1102 — Theft of Pets
Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-San Benito, proposed a bill that could create a range of punishments for the theft of a pet, depending on the purchase price.

According to the bill, a pet is defined as, “a domesticated animal owned by a person other than the actor.” The term includes a dog, cat, rodent, fish, reptile or bird, but not a livestock animal or wildlife resource.

Penalties range from a Class C misdemeanor if the pet cost its owner less than $50, to a third-degree felony if the pet cost more than $1,500 but less than $20,000. If the stolen property is $200,000 or more, it is a first-degree felony.