Campus Safety

Over the past six years, the Union Building, along with the Student Activity Center, Jester Center, Webb Hall and the Perry-Castaneda Library, has been the site of more criminal trespassing violations than any other building on campus. These buildings are particularly vulnerable because of heavy foot traffic and the likelihood of unattended belongings. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

UT officials face a difficult trade-off between the safety and accessibility of campus buildings, according to Bob Harkins, the associate vice president of Campus Safety and Security.

UTPD crime statistics show that, in the past six years, criminal trespassing was reported most frequently in Webb Hall, the Union Building, the Student Activity Center, Jester Center and the Perry-Castaneda Library.

Harkins said most facilities, while not public, are generally open to the public during daytime hours, meaning anyone can access UT buildings when they are open.

“If you live around here, you understand that there are a lot of people that hang out around places,” Harkins said. “Only when they’re in an area they’re not authorized to be in after hours, or they’re creating some type of a nuisance, do we then approach them.”

UTPD Lt. Gonzalo Gonzalez said higher criminal trespass rates for Webb Hall and the Union Building could be a result of the buildings’ locations.

“They’re right next to Guadalupe Street,” Gonzalez said. “I can tell you that’s why I would guess those two would be on the list.”

Harkins said campus buildings attract homeless individuals because they provide clean water, food and a break from the weather.

Buildings such as the Union, the SAC and the PCL are heavily populated with students, who sometimes leave their belongings unattended, making them vulnerable to theft.

“People will tend to lay down personal property and walk away from it, then we’ve got the threat of thefts that we’re trying to balance out all the time,” Harkins said.

Laurie Lentz, communications manager for Campus Planning & Facilities Management, said while criminal trespassing does not frequently interfere with the management of buildings, trespassers occasionally cause disruption for custodial services personnel.

“It’s sort of episodic — things will happen occasionally and it’ll be kind of a mess, but there’s no really consistent pattern with it other than that typically what’s affected are the restrooms,” Lentz said. “Generally, it would be homeless people using UT restrooms to clean up and they may leave paper towel waste on the floor or splash a lot of water around, and then the custodial team will need to come clean it up.”

Campus Safety and Security is working to install electronic access locks in all campus buildings. Currently, 64 of the 238 main campus buildings are equipped with these locks, which require a UT ID card for entry.

“What those do is they give us the capability to provide a safer environment for students that are studying late in small groups or even by themselves,” Harkins said. “We’re moving through campus as quickly as we can to get more funding to be able to do more of the buildings.”

Alterations to emergency campus instruction policies were issued this morning to prevent confusion in the event of future campus emergencies.

In a campus-wide e-mail alert this morning, Campus Safety and Security clarified the terms “shelter-in-place” and “lockdown” in their emergency instruction policies and also reminded students of the “5 Outs” procedure to follow in an active-shooter situation. Bob Harkins, associate vice president for Campus Safety and Security, said the alert was issued Wednesday on the 46th anniversary of the Whitman Tower Shooting to remind the UT community that shooter-related emergency policies do exist and to clarify terms to avoid the confusion that occurred with the Sept. 28, 2010 shooting.

“People were using the terms ‘shelter-in-place’ and ‘lockdown’ interchangeably,” Harkins said.

During the Sept. 28, 2010 shooting, confusion between the two terms caused a lot of confusion for the UT community, as its members were unclear about how to correctly follow campus instructions, Harkins said.

“Shelter-in-place” has now been defined as “a directive to seek immediate shelter indoors following the announcement of an emergency condition,” and “lockdown” has been defined as “a directive to stop access and/or egress as appropriate, to all or a portion of the buildings on campus.”

“The last thing I want in the case of a shooting is to gather people in a central location,” he said.

Harkins said the alert was in no way related to the July 20 shooting in Aurora, Colo.

The e-mail alert this morning also referenced a testing of the campus siren at 11:50 a.m. Harkins said the siren was supposed to go off once, but due to electrical difficulties, was actually triggered twice.

“The extra siren was a mistake, and there was no actual emergency,” he said.

The campuswide lockdown during the Sept. 28 campus shooting raised questions for students, faculty and staff. The office of Campus Safety and Security responded by publishing a set of procedural definitions for lockdowns, weather and environmental emergencies online Tuesday.

The office began developing the new definitions on Sept. 29, the day after mathematics sophomore Colton Tooley fired shots with an AK-47 before taking his own life in the Perry-Castañeda Library, said Bob Harkins, the associate vice president of the office. The incident made it clear that many members of the campus community are unsure of how to respond when an emergency incident requires a lockdown or other procedure.

“If you are in classes and you get a text message telling you the campus is in lockdown, do you know what to do?” he asked. “Chances are, no.”

Harkins said a visible poster is essential for telling students what to do in a lockdown or weather emergency.

“In a bad emergency or something like that, I don’t have time to spell [emergency procedures] out to everybody,” he said.

Harkins said the office needs to finalize the size and design of the poster before implementing it in classrooms. The definitions will be part of a new Building Management and Restricted Access Plan after the department reviews the entire plan again and it is signed by President William Powers Jr.

UTPD officer William Pieper patrolled the campus on the corner of 21st Street and Speedway the day of the shooting. He said most people he saw understood what to do, but several people exited buildings, and officers had to direct them back inside. He said increased awareness of safety procedures for lockdowns would help police focus more on solving crime.

Computer sciences freshman Ashley McCrory was on campus during the Sept. 28 incident and praised the quick response of police and the effective text and e-mail communications. She said publicizing information could save lives during future lockdowns and weather emergencies.

Pre-public relations freshman Andrew McWaters said he would not have known what to do during the lockdown as an individual and does not know the procedure for sheltering.
“I don’t think anyone would read [the posters] unless an actual emergency was going on,” he said. “I think they should introduce that at freshman orientation.”