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.”