UTPD prepares for on-campus trespassing during winter months

AddThis

UTPD officers arrested a non-UT subject  earlier this week found sleeping on a couch on the fifth floor of the Gates-Dell Complex. According to the UTPD crime log, the subject had previously been issued a written criminal trespass warning.

Criminal trespass incidents like this one are common on campus, especially when colder temperatures drive homeless individuals to seek warmth in campus buildings, according to UTPD. 

 UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said the top three buildings for criminal trespass on campus are Walter Webb Hall, the Union and San Antonio Garage. Posey said criminal trespass incidents increase at varying rates throughout the year, but the the most active months are during the fall.

UTPD has reported nine additional criminal trespass incidents so far this month, four of which involved individuals sleeping in campus buildings.

Posey said UTPD follows a specific protocol through the county attorney's office to determine whether to arrest individuals who trespass on campus.

"UTPD will warn a person in writing the first time they are found in a criminal trespass situation.  The written notice serves as notification that entry is forbidden to non-UT affiliated persons who do not have legitimate business to conduct in the building or the building is closed," Posey said in an email.

"The [criminal trespass] warning is for all UT buildings and is valid for two years," Posey said. "The officer will assess the situation to determine the facts and make the decision to arrest if the situation warrants."

Posey said UTPD officers will sometimes provide homeless individuals who trespass on campus with information about shelters or other resources.
 
"The officer will assess the situation and, if warranted, some officers will tell the trespasser about churches in the area that serve breakfast and allow sleeping on church property," Posey said. "The officers also tell them about The Salvation Army shelter."   

Jan Gunter, communications and community relations director at The Salvation Army of Austin, said The Salvation Army has two shelters in the city, both for emergency housing.

Gunter said the organization has a specific cold weather plan that collaborates with other groups throughout the city — churches, recreation centers, APD and other shelters — to provide places for homeless individuals to stay when the temperature drops.

According to Gunter, the shelters get a total of about 310 individuals on normal nights, but, on cold nights, that number increase by as many as 400 individuals.

"On cold weather nights, The Salvation Army will provide additional spaces at other locations, and we allow for a later check in at the shelter," Gunter said.

With the increase in clients on colder nights, Gunter said both Salvation Army shelters usually do exceed their capacities. 

"Our goal is to collaborate and make sure that no one has to sleep outside in the cold," Gunter said.

Editor's note: Information in this article about The Salvation Army shelters have been clarified for accuracy.