Darrell Halstead

Photo Credit: Emily Ng | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's note: Jody Serrano is spending a few hours Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with new UT students attending the first orientation session. Check back for updates, and follow her on Twitter @jodyserrano. Updated at  5:19 p.m. on Saturday, June 8.

Friday, June 7

1 p.m. - Registering for a UT future

As the clock counted down to 11 a.m., the time UT registration would officially open, chemistry freshman Taylor Castillo could her feel her heart racing. She sat in her chair refreshing the page constantly until her screen finally changed and she was in the registration system. 

"You could hear all the crowd saying, 'I got in, I got in,'" Castillo said, referring to students who got into certain classes. 

More than 1,000 new UT students registered for classes Friday. Students could register from their personal computers or use UT computer labs at assigned locations. Academic advisors were on site to help students with last minute questions. The registration system was open from 11 a.m. to midnight Friday. Students who were not able to get into the classes they wanted will have another chance to add and drop courses the first few weeks of school. 

Castillo said she finished registration in about five minutes and got into all the classes she wanted. She said working with her academic advisor helped her get the schedule she wanted and is excited to come back to UT in the fall. 

"This is my home, I want to come here," Castillo said.

Classes begin August 28.

 

Thursday, June 6

9:30 p.m. – Saturn is in sight

UT student astronomers gave a new meaning to the word ‘party’ Thursday night and invited students from the Class of 2017 to look at Saturn through the telescope on the roof of the Robert Lee Moore Hall.

Astronomy junior Alex Robles is the co-president of the Astronomy Students Association, which will be holding star parties every session of freshman orientation. Robles said his favorite part of the parties was seeing students' faces when they looked into the telescope.

“They say, ‘What? This is not a planet,’” Robles said.

Allison Burns is an incoming aerospace engineering freshman and said she was delighted UT offered the star party. Burns said she has loved stars since she was 8 years old.

“It’s great to know that there’s a student organization that’s does what I’m interested in,” Burns said. “I really want to be a part of it.” 

7:30 p.m. – All students are longhorns

UT students put a spotlight on the school’s diverse student population and encouraged new students to be respectful of others’ differences on campus.

Orientation staff explored issues of student identity and acceptance in the “Longhorns: Who We Really Are” program Thursday evening. Student performers portrayed many identities on campus, including being a certain race or identifying with a certain religion, and urged acceptance.

“I shouldn’t be afraid to tell people what religion I am just because I’m afraid I’ll be misunderstood,” said a performer who portrayed being a Muslim on campus.

Eli Ortiz, an incoming math freshman, said the show was not something he would normally see or think of. Ortiz is from San Antonio and said his parents were very traditional.

“I think it’ll help me,” Ortiz said. “I won’t judge someone by what I see.” 

4 p.m. – It’s time for dodgeball

The courtyard in front of the Jester Residence Hall resembled a battleground Thursday afternoon. Students yelled, strategized and faced off against their friends in a game of dodgeball.

UT orientation advisors said about 100 students showed up for dodgeball games held Wednesday and Thursday. Many students braved the fight and signed up for multiple games, while others enjoyed watching from the sidelines.

Mario Duran, an orientation advisor supervising the game, said events like these are important for creating balance during orientation. Duran said students come to orientation to do serious work, such as registering for classes, but they also come to have fun.

“A lot of time when students play sports they get more comfortable with each other,” Duran said. “It builds friendships that could possibly be renewed when they come back to the University.”

3 p.m. – Don’t believe stereotypes

Representatives from UT’s Greek community had one message for new students attending orientation: Sorority and fraternity life is not like what’s in the movies.

About 30 UT students attended the Thursday information session about getting involved in Greek life at UT. Jazmine Hernandez, a representative of UT’s Multicultural Greek Council, said Greek life is not all about partying and focuses on leadership, networking and community service.

Greek organizations did a total of 82,569 community service hours on campus, according to UT’s Office of the Dean of Students. The average member GPA in fall 2011 was 3.2.

Hernandez, a transfer student, said getting involved in Greek life helped her feel connected to the UT community.

“I just hope that [new students] at least scratched the surface of Greek life,” Hernandez said. “See where they would fit.”

There are 5,888 members involved in Greek life at UT, according to the dean of students. If accepted, a new fall member can pay anywhere from $1,450 to $2,372 in membership fees. 

Wednesday, June 5

8 p.m. – Crime, sex and alcohol at UT

On Wednesday night, new students were reminded that they were not in high school and were warned that crimes do occur in college.

UT police officer Darrell Halstead spoke to hundreds of students who attended “The Longhorn Diaries,” a play meant to introduce students to campus safety issues, including theft, alcohol use and sexual assault.

Officials also spoke to students about staying healthy by knowing their alcohol limit, sleeping often and practicing safe sex.

Halstead said many students come to UT with the impression that nothing bad will happen to them.

“Unfortunately, it’s time for those rose-colored glasses to come off,” Halstead said.

Halstead encouraged students to sign up for the “Campus Watch,” a newsletter informing students of crimes reported on campus. Halstead also asked students to take advantage of safety resources on campus, such as the Rape Aggressive Defense program, a free self-defense class offered by the UT Police Department.

5 p.m. - A Texas-sized BBQ

Close to 2,000 new students and families braved long lines in the Texas heat for BBQ and conversation.

Students from the Class of 2017 took a small break from their busy orientation schedule, which consisted of an introduction to UT expectations and getting to know their academic colleges, for food and a student organization fair.

More than 100 student organizations set up recruitment tables at the dinner. Andrew Clark, president of UT’s Senate of College Councils, said the fair is an opportunity to expose students to diverse opportunities on campus.

“It was definitely impactful for me. I actually went to the Senate table,” Clark said. “They threw a t-shirt at me.”

Parent Lola Windisch traveled from Lubbock and attended family orientation, a program for parents and guardians aimed at educating them about the student experience. Windisch said she was happy to see students excited about representing their organizations.

“That’s the nice thing with UT, there’s something for everybody,” Windisch said. “It’s a big and small school if you want it to be.”

12 p.m. – Let UT help you graduate in four years

UT graduation rate champion David Laude encouraged new students from the Class of 2017 to see UT as a partner to help them graduate in four years Wednesday.

Laude spoke at the mandatory program at UT’s freshman orientation. At the session, students were shown a video that outlined specific steps they could take to graduate in four years. 

Steps included taking an average 15 hours per semester for four years, taking summer and online classes, transferring credits from other institutions and using a new online tool that allows students to check their progress to degree.

“Most of you think, ‘I’m going to graduate in four, maybe even three years,’” Laude said. “The thing is, that doesn’t just happen. You don’t just roll the ball out and there it is. It actually takes a lot of planning and a lot of work.”

UT is on a campaign to increase its four-year graduation rates from 52 percent to 70 percent by 2016. Efforts the past few years have included reworking freshman orientation to give students more time with their academic advisors and giving students scholarships to encourage them to graduate in four years.

The video also explained possible consequences if students do not graduate in four years and cited it could cost an extra $60,000 on average to spend an extra year at UT. Costs included lost income, additional tuition and student loans. 

11 a.m. – The student workers behind orientation

Orientation advisor Christina Ramirez woke up at 6 a.m. for parking duty, where she welcomed people parking in the Brazos Garage with a smile.

“When students hear that first, ‘Welcome to UT-Austin,’ you can see it on their faces, they’re so excited,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez has spent all semester getting ready for summer orientation. Orientation advisors are required to take a preparation class at UT and attend weekly meetings to help create the programs the new students will see, including programs on campus safety and diversity.

Tuesday night was day zero, but Ramirez’s work had already begun. She said she went to the store to buy candy for the group of students she would mentor, reviewed her orientation duties and laid out her clothes to get ready for Wednesday.

Ramirez said UT has tried to include orientation advisors in its effort to increase four-year graduation rates by connecting them to campus administrators and campus resources.

UT’s current four-year graduation rate is 52 percent. Officials hope to increase it to 70 percent by 2016.

“We get to be like the cheerleaders,” Ramirez said.

10 a.m. – Finding community on campus

A group of about 15 students in bright blue shirts stood out from the sea of burnt orange outside Jester Residence Hall Wednesday. Their task: to welcome students and help them make sense of the campus maps.

The students are part of the Christian Students on Campus, a Christian faith organization. Staffer Cary Ard said the group had been their since 7:30 a.m. Wednesday to welcome students and inspire them to find community at UT.

“Sometimes a lot of kids come here without knowing anyone and they’re looking for community here, we provide that,” Ard said. “It may not be as institutional or stark, but it is a real personal feeling.”

Ard said he had seen students and families from Houston, San Antonio, Corpus Cristi and even Colorado on Wednesday.

Morgan May, an advertising junior in the organization, said she hopes new students will make finding a community on campus their priority.

“Be very open with people,” May said. “You get a couple months to meet a lot of people where no one thinks you’re weird.”

9 a.m. - It’s time for your close-up

Standing in a long line at the Flawn Academic Center to get a student ID is an experience all UT students know well.

Fine arts freshman Alex Waters said she had been waiting in line for about twenty minutes Wednesday morning. Waters did not wait alone, but with a group of four other students from Dallas, Lubbock and Topeka, Kans.

Waters said she met the others at Hardin House, a private dormitory on Rio Grande Street. Waters and all new students are required to stay on-campus for orientation.

For the group of new students coming next week, Waters had one piece of advice: “Be friendly, bring a lot of tennis shoes and dress according to the weather.”

Wednesday’s high is 97 degrees.

8 a.m. - More than 1,000 in Jester for Orientation

Carrying suitcases, blankets and pillows, about 1,110 new students took their first steps on campus at the Jester Residence Hall Wednesday morning.

Orientation officials said students and their families began showing up at 6:30 a.m. for the 7:30 a.m. check-in, where they receive a run-down of their schedule for the next three days. During orientation, students will meet their academic advisors, learn more about their college and register for classes.

Cristi Biggs, the assistant dean of students who oversees orientation, said there was a certain excitement in the air with the crowd of students Wednesday.

Biggs said her biggest piece of advice for students is to take advantage of the opportunities they have at orientation, such as going to the optional programs about campus traditions and improving their first-year experience.

“You can go out to eat with your family and friends at any time,” Biggs said. “This is dedicated to your preparation for college. Focus on the opportunities you have at orientation and get to know your classmates.”

Disclosure: Serrano worked as an orientation advisor for the Office of New Student Services from 2011-2012. 

Correction, June 8: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Jazmine Hernandez as a representative of the UT Latino Pan-Hellenic Council. Hernandez is a representative of the Multicultural Greek Council. 

Photos by Emily Ng and Guillermo Hernandez.

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

UT police investigated a break-in at the Main Building Tuesday, and despite police efforts to lure a ‘suspect’ out with french fries, they still managed to escape.

According to UTPD officer Darrell Halstead’s Campus Watch report released Tuesday, several University of Texas Police Department officers responded to alarms in room eight of the Main Building Tuesday around 2:41 a.m. and discovered entry to the office had been made through the ceiling.

According to the report, an air conditioning vent was lying on the floor of the room, along with dust and other ceiling materials. Officers began searching the office and discovered a “masked non-UT subject attempting to hide by hanging onto the wall molding and a window blind.”

According to the report, “The subject refused to comply with the officers requests to come out with his hands up. The subject even refused the officers coaxing when the officer handed over the Jack in the Box french fries. The non-UT subject escaped through an open window and evaded the officers. The non-UT subject was described as: three feet tall, last seen wearing a brown and black stripped (sic) coat, furry gloves and black mask over his eyes.”

This UTPD surveillance footage shows a suspect in the A&M-related vandalism incident on campus Oct. 27. 

UT police are asking for the public’s help in identifying individuals responsible for painting Texas A&M University-related graffiti on various areas of UT‘s campus Oct. 27.

UTPD released photos of suspects obtained from security footage of the tagging on Friday via the University of Texas Police Department Facebook page. UTPD officer Darrell Halstead said it appears there were two male vandals who are around the age of most college students.

UT spokesperson Rhonda Weldon said the tagging occurred between midnight and 5 a.m. Oct. 27. The security footage, along with most details about the case, cannot be released because the investigation is still ongoing. She said UTPD is working with the Texas A&M University Police Department to investigate the tagging.

Weldon said no arrest has been made at this time in relation to the case, and all the graffiti has now been cleaned up.

Halstead said UTPD has estimated it cost roughly $3,000 to clean up the graffiti, and the vandals in this case would be looking at a graffiti charge. He said normally that would be classified as a class A misdemeanor, punishable with a fine of up to $4,000 and/or up to one year in prison. Because the tagging was done on a university campus, the charge is raised to a state jail felony, punishable with 180 days to 2 years in a state jail and/or a fine of not more than $10,000.

Prominent UT landmarks including statues of Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson in front of the UT Tower and the 1987 “The West” sculpture by Donald Lipski were tagged in red with the phrases “ATM,” “MUNGLOAF,” “Howdy,” “GIG ‘EM,” “FARMERS FIGHT,” “Whoop!,” “OLD ARMY Fight!,” “SEC!,” “GO AGGIES,” “CORPS” and “MISS US YET?.” Walls and sidewalks in the area surrounding the UT Tower, the Peter T. Flawn Academic Center and on the East Mall were also tagged.

In October 2011, vandals spray painted a bridge near the F. Loren Winship Drama Building and other campus areas in red spray paint using similar phrases.

This season for the first time since 1914, UT will not play Texas A&M in football. Instead, UT will play Texas Christian University this Thanksgiving after A&M joined the Southeastern Conference this fall. UT and A&M first began playing each other in 1894.

Halstead said anyone with information regarding the case should contact UTPD at (512)-471-4441.

Printed on Monday, November 19, 2012 as: UTPD posts graffiti suspects' photos

Officer Darrell Halstead, primary writer of the Campus Watch emails, notifies students, faculty and staff of crimes occurring near and on campus. Halstead engages readers by adding sarcastic and humourous remarks to the informational emails.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Crime Prevention is a job that requires vigilance, patience and a dry sense of humor. For Darrell Halstead, the primary writer of Campus Watch, abating the threat of public intoxication, traffic cone theft and West Campus groping comes one sarcastic blurb at a time. Officer Halstead talks to The Daily Texan about his Campus Watch reports.

The Daily Texan: Is the snark something that was present in the original logs, or did it develop over time? 
Officer Darrell Halstead: No, no. We started the Campus Watch off in 1999. The sergeant that I had in this office with me was all about the facts. Just the facts. The Campus Watch was very dull, very dry. Then he retired, and I started interjecting some of that sarcasm, some of that snark, and poking fun at people, but not poking fun at them as an individual. There were a few sergeants that said, “Oh no, we can’t do that.” But the chief said, “Let’s give this a try.” And it just kind of evolved into what it is today, where it’s chock-full of a lot of crime prevention information, but at the same time it’s written in a humorous way to keep you coming back.

DT: What was the motivation to start writing the Campus Watch?
Halstead: After the Clery Act was passed in 1991, all campuses have been required to disclose their crime statistics on a yearly basis. On October 1, we released last year’s crime statistics. We then have to wait until October [of next year] to release the new crime stats. It doesn’t do any good, to be honest, to wait that long. Even though the Campus Watch is not a supplement to the Clery Act, the folks that enforce the Clery Act have looked at this as a way of disseminating day-to-day business and have recommended it to other universities as well.

DT: How does your job in Crime Prevention correlate to the Campus Watch?
Halstead: Basically, we’re taking everything that we’ve learned about: locks, windows, doors, lighting, landscaping, denying opportunity, reducing risk, delaying the thief, deterring the thief. We’re incorporating all of that into the Campus Watch whenever we get a chance to put in a crime prevention piece. And we do. We’re not kidding when there are very simple things you can do to reduce threats.

DT: What is the most common crime on campus?
Halstead: Theft. It’s the most common crime here. With 52,000 students, there are 52,000 opportunities for someone to commit a crime. But if you look at UT compared to the entire city of Austin, we don’t have nearly the same number of problems that surround us. We do a good job.

DT: Is theft preventable? 
Halstead: It takes three things for a criminal to be successful: desire, ability and opportunity. We can’t do anything about their desire or ability. That’s all personal. But we can eliminate the opportunity. By leaving anything unlocked, you’re creating an opportunity.

DT: What’s one of the most problematic areas on campus?
Halstead: Gregory Gym. We’ve gone in there, replaced the lockers and locked their stuff up. We’ve worked hand-in-hand with the staff putting up signage, but still Gregory Gym remains in the top five. It’s a revolving door.

DT: How many volts are in a tazer?
Halstead: I think somewhere around 250,000 volts. I’ve done it three times. Do you want to be tazed?

DT: Let’s stay on topic. What is your favorite part of the job?
Halstead: I’ve been working here for 25 years. I still enjoy putting bad guys in jail, and I still get a kick out of chasing someone down. But I get a bigger kick out of meeting a freshman, and then five years down the road having them come back and say, “Hey Officer Halstead, none of my stuff got stolen, had a great time here, learned a lot from the Campus Watch.”

DT: What does the future look like for Campus Watch? 
Halstead: It’s always evolving and changing. The stories pretty much write themselves. But sometimes it’s better to create a good description of something rather than saying, “someone’s peeing” or “someone’s puking.” Create a little visual for that, and leave it to the reader’s imagination. But we’ve got eight or nine programs in Crime Prevention that we do now, all of which promote the Campus Watch, expanding the number of readers as best as we can.

DT: What do you do when off duty?
Halstead: I definitely like to go out to the lakes and go fishing. When it’s dove season, [I] go out and do some bird-hunting.

DT: Are police officers ever off duty?
Halstead: No. 

Printed on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 as: Officer provides insight with side of sarcasm 

The Austin Police Department has enlisted the help of the UT Police Department to stop a string of West Campus burglaries hoping to gain crime tips from students who read Campus Watch announcements.

APD spokesman Anthony Hipolito said there were 10 burglaries of West Campus residences from February 26 to April 16.

He said the stolen items were mostly expensive electronics, including flat-screen televisions, laptops and iPads. Hipolito said five out of the 10 burglaries involved unlocked doors or windows, and in many of the cases, the victims were intoxicated when the burglaries happened. APD and UTPD officials said they have not identified a specific suspect, but have reason to believe those involved in the crimes may be neighbors or acquaintances of the victims.

“In one instance the door of a resident’s home was kicked in, but she did not hear it or wake up,” Hipolito said. “It is not possible at this point to determine whether or not these crimes were committed by a single person. It is very likely that the suspect is a neighbor or a friend of the people who were robbed.”

Officer Darrell Halstead, UTPD crime prevention specialist, said UTPD has worked with APD in the past to locate suspects in criminal investigations. He said students who subscribe to the Campus Watch have a history of reporting suspicious behavior and helping the Austin police catch criminals.

Although Halstead urged students with any information to contact UTPD, both Halstead and UTPD Chief Robert Dahlstrom said they were not aware of any tips that had been reported.

2011 UT alumnus Trevor Nichols said he lives on 21st and Rio Grande streets, a few blocks from several of the burglary locations, but he had not heard of the string of incidences.

“You expect there to be a few incidences just because West Campus is such a large area, but I am surprised to hear that there were so many.” Nichols said.

He said he does not think it is uncommon for residents throwing a party to forget to lock their doors after everyone leaves.

“After your guests are gone, you usually just end up crashing on the couch and watching TV,” Nichols said. “I think that can be hugely dangerous, because everyone who has been in the neighborhood recently knows that you just had a party and your doors are probably still unlocked.”

Nichols said he is very careful to keep the door to his apartment locked, but he knows that his roommates and others in his neighborhood are not as cautious.

Printed on Friday,  April 27, 2012 as: West Campus thieves target expensive electronics 

Students and University officials have reacted to the recent death of a UT student by urging that students display greater alcohol safety.

In the early morning hours of April 20, 22-year-old Andy Wang, an advertising senior from Katy, was returning from a night downtown on the E-Bus when he lost his balance and fell under the wheels of the bus as it was departing. According to the Austin Police Department and witnesses, Wang was intoxicated at the time and had to be supported by his friend as he exited the bus. The accident happened at 1300 Crossing Place at approximately 2 a.m. on Friday, said Sgt. David Daniels. Wang was taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge hospital and pronounced dead soon after the accident.

Misty Whited, spokeswoman for Capital Metro, said Aniceto Cortes, the operator of the bus during the accident, tested negative for drugs and alcohol immediately following the accident. Cortes was put on paid administrative leave at the time, although he will be returning to work Wednesday. Whited said prior to this January there had never been a fatal accident involving a Cap Metro bus. Whited said Cap Metro is still investigating the accident, although APD has not charged Cortes for any offense. Veneza Aguinaga, an APD officer, said Austin police officers are still investigating the incident as well.

Jessica Chung, psychology and public relations junior and social chair of the Texas Advertising Group at UT, said Wang’s death was a tragedy for all who knew him, including the advertising students who were his friends. She also said Wang’s accident illustrates the potential problem of people, especially students, becoming too intoxicated to control their bodies and stay safe.

“No one should have to pass like this,” Chung said. “[I hope this story] sheds some light on college drinking issues.”

UTPD Officer Darrell Halstead said all too often UT students have a laid-back attitude towards alcohol consumption. He said alcohol consumption can be a slippery slope that can lead to excessive and dangerous drinking.

“Sometimes students begin to assume that they have built up a tolerance to the alcohol and they become oblivious to how much they are actually drinking,” Halstead said. “That can become really dangerous. However, it is even more dangerous when people get in the mind-set that bad things only happen to other people.”

Halstead said students should be cautious and prepare before they go out to drink.

“I’d encourage all students to have a game plan before they go out,” Halstead said. “Make sure that your plan includes several sober friends — more than one. Make sure that everyone you are out with is on the same page. If you are going to drink, stick to the minimum not the maximum and try to spread out the number of drinks you have over the entire night.”

Halstead said he hopes this incident encourages students to think seriously about their drinking habits and to make lasting changes.

Fellow advertising senior Alyssa Doffing said she knew Wang from class. Doffing said she had been struck by how friendly Wang was.

“Andy was a really great guy — very outgoing and fun to be around,” Doffing said. “What a terrible accident he was involved in. My thoughts are with his family, friends and the bus driver.”

Printed on Friday, April 27, 2012 as: UT reacts to death of student struck by a bus

Information stolen from some students’ credit and debit cards has been used at the same online stores, leading to privacy and safety concerns on campus. Law enforcement officials urge students to report card information theft.

Six UT students interviewed by The Daily Texan reported having their credit card information stolen in the past two weeks. Two victims said their cards were used to buy items from Sephora, while others reported charges from Bloomingdales and Fandango. The amounts of the reported fraudulent charges ranged from $200 to $600. All of the victims interviewed by The Daily Texan were able to have the fraudulent charges dismissed, however none of them had filed police reports with UTPD or the Austin Police Department as of Monday.

Supply chain management junior Cheyenne McClaren said she thinks her information might have been stolen when she purchased a restaurant gift card from a door-to-door salesperson.

“I swiped my card through the reading device that was attached to a [mobile cell] phone,” McClaren said. “I really should not have done it, because I know those devices are not secure.”

She said she has not yet reported the incident to the police, but she is planning to file a report as soon as possible. McClaran said having her information stolen led her to monitor her online interactions more carefully.

“After I got the charges taken off my card I made a point to change all of my passwords,” McClaren said. “I also created a second bank account as a security measure where I kept less of my savings. I use it when I make purchases that I think are less secure.”

UTPD officer Darrell Halstead said he has not seen an increase in reported fraudulent credit and debit card activity or information theft, but this could be explained by the fact that students are often reluctant to report these incidents.

“A lot of times people think there is nothing that the police can do about [credit and debit card information thefts] so they do not report these incidents,” Halstead said. “In not reporting crime, they prove themselves right because there is absolutely nothing we can do about a crime if we do not know about it.”

He said the first step in finding the perpetrators who are stealing credit card information is for victims to report the incident with UTPD or the APD.

“What I would like to see is people getting involved in reporting crimes that happen on this campus,” Halstead said.

Once officers know that a student’s credit card information has been stolen, they can begin to work with the credit card company to verify that a crime has been committed, Halstead said. Officers can then investigate the locations where the credit and debit card numbers have been used illegally.

According to APD’s incident report database there were three reported incidences of “credit card abuse by fraud” for each of the past three weeks in the City of Austin. Cpl. Anthony Hipolito with APD said incidences of credit and debit card theft are classified with all other types of theft by the police department. Therefore, he said it would be difficult for APD representatives to know if the number of thefts has been increasing in recent weeks.

Printed on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 as: Credit card theft burdens UT students

A convicted sex offender who purposely cut off his ankle monitor and fled his residence has still not been found by authorities and is considered a cause for concern by campus police and safety organizations.

Robert Lee Moone, 54, an unemployed offender whose residence is in the North Campus area, violated terms of his parole after breaching his ankle monitor last Wednesday. Moone is a lifetime registrant for multiple burglaries of habitation with intent to commit sex offenses and is considered to be highly dangerous.

Darrell Halstead, UT Police Department officer, said students, faculty and staff should be aware of their surroundings and assume that Moone is still in the Austin area.

“When you’re walking to class or riding your bike, take your earbuds out so you can hear someone approaching behind you,” Halstead said. “Avoid areas that make you feel uncomfortable and, if confronted, go back to the last place you felt safe.”

Halstead said students should not confront Moone if they spot him and should instead get on the phone and report the sighting to the authorities.

“As citizens of Austin, they need to have common sense, report suspicious people or activity and be a little bit more sensitive to what’s going on around them without causing mass panic or chaos because each person’s perceptions are different than your own,” Halstead said.

Public relations senior Hooff Cooksey, director of SURE Walk, a volunteer group that walks students safely to and from campus, said in a situation like this, he would urge students more than ever to always walk with multiple friends, whether they are on or off campus.

“If ever a person should find themselves in an uncomfortable situation or without a few trusted friends, SURE Walk is available to provide that needed trust and security in numbers,” Cooksey said.

Sergeant Laura Davis, state director for the Rape Aggression Defense Program and coordinator and instructor for the UTPD RAD program, said RAD discusses crime prevention, dating, traveling and other personal safety.

“We want to increase the students’ personal safety knowledge, encourage empowerment and inform students of the options available to them,” Davis said. “The last day of the program includes a simulation of specifically designed scenarios where students have the opportunity to utilize their skills in a safe environment.”

Anthropology senior Catherine Sauer said although the news of Moone’s parole violation makes her nervous, she does not think it is something to be worried about.

“I’ll try to be more aware of my surroundings, but at the same time there’s bad people everywhere so I don’t think it’s that big a deal,” Sauer said.

Update on 04/10/12 at 12:55 p.m.: added mugshot

A van associated with the UT carpenter’s shop collided with a pedestrian Monday afternoon on Inner Campus Drive.

EMS arrived on the scene at approximately 12:45 p.m. and transported the male pedestrian to a Brackenridge Hospital, where he received medical attention and was found to have no serious injuries. UTPD could not provide the name of the man struck by the vehicle, but UTPD Officer Darrell Halstead said he was a non-student applying for a job at the University. Halstead said the man stepped off the curb to cross the street between the McCombs School of Business and Waggener Hall, but did not notice the oncoming van before the collision because he was focused on sending a text message. UTPD blocked off Inner Campus Drive until approximately 1:30 p.m. so police could take accurate measurements of where the incident occurred.

Electrician Clifford Moreland of UT Project Management and Construction Services said he was assigned to the same project the driver of the carpenter shop van was sent to, but their work was delayed due to the incident. Moreland said he did not see the van collide with the pedestrian, but was present after the incident occurred.

Both Moreland and Halstead said pedestrians should be aware of how often pedestrian-vehicle accidents occur on campus.

“A week or two ago someone else was hit by a vehicle,” Moreland said. “There have a been a few times we’ve had to make a quick stop because a student has been texting and almost walked into our vehicle. It’s something we have to deal with everyday.”

Halstead said pedestrians should take note of the cross walks provided at oncampus intersections and remember to look out for bikers and drivers also using the road.

Printed on Tuesday, April 10, 2012 as: Pedestrian sent to hospital after collision with UT van