The University of Texas Police Department sees a drop in crime rates over the summer as many students leave Austin. Now that students are back on campus, UTPD advises students to be aware of their surroundings, have a game plan when going out at night and to report all suspicious activity.
That's according to UTPD Officer Layne Brewster, who regularly sends Campus Watch emails to the UT community recapping reports of crime at the university.
While property theft and criminal mischief remain the major concerns year round, UTPD officers must also take care to keep new students safe. The primary issues for incoming freshmen are personal safety and underage drinking, Brewster says.
"We’d rather you call us and it turn out to be nothing than you don’t call, and the bad guy gets away," Brewster says. "Time is of the essence."
"It takes three things for a crime to happen – the desire, the opportunity and the ability," Brewster says. "We can’t take away the desire or the ability, but we can take away the opportunity."
In 1990, Congress passed the Clery Act which requires colleges and universities to disclose reports of crime on their campuses. The law was named for Jeanne Clery, a student at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania who was raped and murdered in her dorm room in 1986. The incident was met with backlash against the lack of disclosure of criminal activity on college campuses.
UTPD has been sending out Campus Watch emails to the UT community since 1999. The officers review all crime reports filed within the past 72 hours and issue a summary to their subscribers.
Luckily, not all campus crimes are quite as alarming. While police reports can get dry and boring, Brewster says the UT team tries to make Campus Watch emails entertaining for subscribers to read. Her favorite report was one of criminal mischief a few years ago when a bicycle seat was found torn to shreds on campus. The culprit turned out to be a squirrel.
UTPD once responded to an alarm in the bursar’s office in the UT tower, which stores cash from monetary transactions with students. When officers arrived at the scene, they found a masked bandit – aka, a raccoon –responsible for the break in. Luckily, no damages were reported.