AUSTIN - Changes are coming to the University of Texas Police Department to try and keep students safer.
Earlier this week, UTPD sent out an alert that a student was sexually assaulted on campus. They also let students know there was no ongoing threat.
Legally, UTPD is only required to alert students about incidents that may pose a threat on campus under the federal Clery Act.
However, UT Police Chief David Carter said he feels it’s their duty to warn students about possible threats off campus as well. Specifically, areas where large amounts of students live or walk.
And the UT campus is a large area.
"There's more or less 350 acres of campus here, much larger than the '40 acres' everyone thinks about,” said Carter.
However, he’s identified areas outside of campus that also require their attention, like the Drag and West Campus.
Carter outlined this larger area in a map known as an “area of interest” and is working with the Austin Police Department to identify this region so they can work together on notifying students of any threats.
"If it's a crime of violence occurring on a street somewhere in here, we're asking APD to let us know and we'll make a decision whether it rises to the occasion,” said Carter.
By rising to the occasion, he is referring to the text alerts all students at UT receive on their cell phones. While all incidents aren’t sent out over text, the ones that pose a threat to students near or on campus generally do.
Sometimes, however, students don’t receive texts about incidents off campus, even if they involve UT students.
For example, on Nov. 25, UTPD tweeted about two separate incidents. One involved a UT student groped at 25th and Pearl. Another tweet referenced a flasher at 21st and Guadalupe outside the Thai, How Are You? restaurant on the Drag.
"I heard about it on the news and I did not receive any text messages from UT about that,” a university senior told KVUE.
On Dec. 17, UTPD tweeted that a female student was assaulted on 26th Street outside campus by a Hispanic male wearing a hoodie. Police couldn't find him and no text alert was sent, according to several students KVUE spoke to.
Chief Carter said he would like the department to work more efficiently with Austin police to know what’s happening off campus in areas heavily populated by students. He also wants to streamline the process for sending text alerts so there is “less bureaucracy.”
Carter expects these changes to take effect when students come back to school next week from winter break.
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